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Canada train disaster: Blast missing 'probably dead'

media captionLac-Megantic resident Adrien Aubert filmed the aftermath of the blast

Canadian police have said 30 people missing since Saturday's train crash in a Quebec town are "most probably dead".

Twenty bodies have already been found after a runaway train carrying oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic.

During a visit to the town, Quebec's premier said the train owner's response to the disaster had been "deplorable".

The head of Rail World accused a local driver of failing to set a series of hand brakes. Swathes of the town centre were wiped out in the huge blast.

Some 2,000 town residents were forced to flee their homes.


On Wednesday, Quebec police inspector Michel Forget told the families of the missing that their loved ones were "most probably dead in this tragedy".

media captionRail World boss Ed Burkhardt: "It is very questionable whether the hand brakes were properly applied. In fact I'll say they weren't"

"It is with great sadness that I give you this news," he said.

Police say one of the 24 recovered bodies has been identified as 93-year-old Elianne Parenteau.

No official list of missing people has yet been released, but unofficial accounts have been circulating on social media.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visited Lac-Magentic on Thursday, and criticised the company's response to the crash.

She said Rail World chief executive Edward Burkhart's attitude was "unacceptable" and "deplorable".

"The leader of this company should have been there from the beginning," she told a news conference.

She also announced a C$60m (£38m; $57m) fund to help victims and rebuild the town.

'Abject apology'

Mr Burkhardt was due to meet town residents and the mayor on Thursday, a day after he was heckled as he made his first visit to Lac-Megantic.

On Wednesday, he revealed an engineer who was in charge of driving the train had been suspended without pay, because they did not believe his claim to have fully applied the brakes.

"He's not in jail, but police have talked about prosecuting him," Mr Burkhardt said. "I understand exactly why the police are considering criminal charges. If that's the case, let the chips fall where they may."

He also said he had initially stayed in Chicago after the incident to communicate with insurers and various officials.

"I understand the extreme anger," he said. "We owe an abject apology to the people in this town."

Authorities have asked the relatives of those still missing to provide DNA samples.

Officials have also warned that some of the bodies may have been burnt to ashes in the explosion.

Police are still searching the disaster site, and the heart of the town is being treated as a crime scene.

At the centre of the destruction was the Musi-Cafe, a popular bar that was busy at the time of the explosion.

The train, carrying 72 cars of crude oil, was parked shortly before midnight on Friday in the town of Nantes about seven miles (11km) away.

It later rolled downhill, gathering speed until it derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded.

The train, bound from the Bakken oil region in the US state of North Dakota, was heading to a refinery on the east coast of Canada.

More on this story

  • Aerial images: Destruction at Lac-Megantic

  • 'Everything's blowing up!'

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