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At least 5 die, 40 missing as train carrying crude oil derails

Jul 08, 2013 | 03:51 PM |

Tags  MMA, Lac-Megantic, derailment, crude-by-rail, Thorsten Schier, Rail World, Preston Publishing, Rick Preckel

NEW YORK — At least five people are dead and about 40 people are missing after a runaway train with 72 carloads of crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, over the weekend

.A local police spokesman was unable to provide an estimate of the damage caused by the derailment, although news outlets have reported that about 30 buildings were destroyed.

The train was stopped and "tied down" by an engineer from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. (MMA) about seven miles from Lac-Megantic before it came loose and rolled downhill into the town, about 150 miles east of Montreal, according to the Hermon, Maine-based railroad.

"We have reports of explosions and buildings in the city on fire, and a number of fatalities and injuries," MMA, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Rail World Inc., said in its initial statement on the July 6 accident.

The derailment could have been the result of the locomotive holding the train being shut down following the departure of the engineer, causing its air brakes to fail, according to a later MMA statement.

Rail World could not be reached for comment.

Pipeline companies such as TransCanada Corp., which is seeking approval of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have said in the past that carrying crude via train is less safe than by pipeline (, March 18).

TransCanada did not return a request for comment.

One analyst, while declining to comment directly on the possible fallout from the Quebec incident, cautioned against overstating the impact of an accident on the crude-by-rail phenomenon.

"Everything we’ve read about oil by rail out of the Bakken (shale) is that it is the preferred way to transport (the product)," Rick Preckel, principal at St. Louis-based Preston Publishing Co., said. "There’s risk, I think, no matter how you transport product and for the most part everything is safe, but we do occasionally have accidents."

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