LAC-MEGANTIC, CANADA // Hazardous conditions hindered firefighters' attempts yesterday to search for some 40 people still missing after a runaway oil tanker train exploded over the weekend, killing at least five people, officials said.
Quebec provincial police Sgt Benoît Richard said yesterday there was no searching overnight because the situation remained too dangerous.
He said only a small part of the devastated scene has been searched as firefighters made sure all flames were out.
Many of those missing were believed to have been drinking at a popular downtown bar when the explosions occurred and rescuers were still not able to reach the area, Sgt Richard said.
"Hopefully we'll be able to open up more areas for searching during the day," he said.
Firefighters yesterday focused their efforts on two oil-filled cars, dousing them with water and foam in an attempt to keep them from overheating and exploding.
All but one of the train's 73 tanker cars were carrying oil when they somehow came loose early on Saturday, sped downhill nearly 11 kilometres into the town of Lac-Megantic, near the Maine border, and derailed, with at least five of the cars exploding.
About a third of the community of 6,000 was forced from their homes by the explosion and flames.
"This is an unbelievable disaster," said Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who toured the town on Sunday and compared it to a war zone. "This is an enormous area, 30 buildings just completely destroyed, for all intents and purposes incinerated. There isn't a family that is not affected by this."
A coroner's spokeswoman said it may not be possible to recover some of the bodies because of the intensity of the blasts.