Sunday 7 July 2013

Massive oil explosions in Quebec.

A runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, at about 1.00 am local time (4.00 am GMT) on Saturday 6 July 2013, causing a series of massive explosions that destroyed much of the center of the settlement. At the time of writing one person has been confirmed dead, though local authorities are warning this is likely to rise sharply, and around 2000 people (from a total population of 6000) have been evacuated. Between 40 and 80 people are thought to be missing.

Fires burning in the center of Lac-Megantic. Edmonton Journal.

The train was operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway and was comprised of 72 cars, each carrying 113 600 liters of North Dakotan crude oil and five locomotives. Four of the oil-cars are believed to have exploded, and several others appear to have leaked, with an unknown amount of oil entering the Chaudiere River, as well as spreading through the towns storm sewers leading to secondary explosions and fires in other parts of the settlement. The train had been parked uphill of the town, and the breaks applied to all five locomotives and a 'sufficient' number of oil cars, according to a spokesman from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

Trains carrying crude oil have become an increasingly important part of the distribution system in North America as both production of and demand for oil has exceeded the capacity of the pipeline network. There have been a number of incidents involving derailments and oil spills, but this incident is unprecedented in nature.

Map showing the location of Lac Megantic, 250 km east of Montreal and 16 km from the border with Maine. Google Maps.

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