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Runaway crude oil train explodes

Train and town ablaze.

Train and town ablaze.

Lac-Megantic — Dangerous conditions are hampering the search for 40 people missing after a runaway crude oil train blew up in a Quebec town, killing five.

Fire crews were unable to search Lac-Megantic overnight because dozens of tanker wagons are strewn across the site after the blast early on Saturday.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the place looked like “a warzone” as he toured the area yesterday.

At least 30 buildings were incinerated by the fireball.

“It’s an area that is still extremely risky,” police spokesman Benoit Richard said today. “The fire service decided they could not allow us to go there for security reasons. We’ll see what we can do today.”

After the inferno.

After the inferno.

Many of those missing were believed to have been drinking at a popular downtown bar when the explosions occurred, he added.

Anne-Julie Huot, 27, said at least 25 people she knows are still missing.

“I have a friend who was smoking outside the bar when it happened, and she barely got away, so we can guess what happened to the people inside,” she told the Associated Press news agency. “It’s like a nightmare.”

One man who escaped from the bar told CBC that he had not been able to sleep because he keeps hearing the screams of his friends.

None of the dead have been identified, and the five bodies recovered so far, all badly burned, were being sent today to Montreal for identification.

Officials have warned that some of the dead may never be recovered, given the intensity of the fire.

Police are encouraging family members of the missing to contact officials to help with the search.

Among buildings in the town destroyed were a grocery store and the town library.

Firefighters worked over the weekend to put out remaining fires.

Today, they were dousing two oil-filled cars with water and foam in an attempt to keep them from overheating and exploding.

Crews are also working to contain 100,000 litres of crude oil that have spilled into nearby waterways. (BBC)

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