It was with great sadness that I learned this weekend of the tragic train derailment, explosion and loss of life at the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec.
Ironically, we had just finished printing and mailing the Summer 2013 edition of HazMat Management magazine, the cover story of which I wrote about the deadly explosion this spring in West, Texas — another small town that similarly suffered a deadly industrial explosion that killed and injured people and flattened buildings.
The Fall 2013 edition of HazMat Management magazine will look further into the Lac Megantic incident. In the meantime, here is a small summary of the event and a link to a newspaper website that’s providing updated details.
On Saturday, July 6 a driverless fuel train rolled into the small town of Lac Megantic, Quebec and exploded in a deadly ball of flames, wiping out half the downtown of the Eastern Townships community that’s home to 6,000 people. Five people are confirmed dead and 40 are missing and are feared dead.
The train rolled 11 kilometres downhill from the town of Nantes to the town of Lac-Mégantic. When the train engineer retired for the night, he shut off four of the five locomotives, leaving the last one running to ensure the air brakes worked. (The brakes don’t work if the entire train is switched off.)
Precise details of what caused the incident are still under investigation and may not be known for days or weeks, but attention has been focused on the fact that a fire crew had extinguished a blaze in one of the parked locomotives and shut off an engine shortly before the train rolled from Nantes down to Lac Megantic.
The train is owned and operated by Montreal Maine & Atlantic, one of many North American railroads that have increased shipments of crude oil as pipelines from North Dakota and from oil-producing regions in Western Canada fill to capacity. The accident will raise questions about the safety of shipping crude oil by rail.
For updates, visit this URL at the Toronto Star website: