A massive explosion followed the derailment of a train carrying crude oil through Quebec early Saturday morning, engulfing a town in flames as scores of residents remain missing—confirming, once again, the massive threat posed by the transportation of volatile fossil fuels.
The explosion occurred at roughly 1:20 AM as the train derailed while passing through the small downtown of Lac-Mégantic.
This video, taken at 1:20 am EST shows the fireball engulfing the small town:
According to a spokesperson for Quebec's Environment Ministry, the train's 73 rail cars were filled with crude oil and at least four of the cars erupted in a series of explosions which engulfed the town in a cloud of black, thick smoke and a fire that continues to burn.
News updates and people's reactions to the incident were trending on Twitter:
Reportedly, there was no one on board the train as the oil-laden cars were being "remotely operated." Further, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that a "large but as-yet undetermined amount of fuel is also reported to have spilled into the Chaudière River," with residents reporting that the water has turned to shades of orange.
"It's dreadful," said Lac-Mégantic resident Claude Bédard. "It's terrible. We've never seen anything like it."
Over 60 individuals still remain missing and authorities estimate some 30 buildings have been "affected" with several completely "flattened" by the blast.
Many proponents of oil and gas drilling have argued that shipment by rail poses a 'safe' alternative to the proven dangers of oil pipelines though repeated tragedies such as this provide a further reminder of the risks of petroleum transport, in any form.
The derailed train belongs to Montreal Maine & Atlantic, which owns nearly 500 miles of track throughout Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick, according to the company's website.