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Freight Train Derails and Explodes in Lac-Megantic, Quebec

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Early Saturday, a locomotive pulling a 72-car freight train full of crude oil from North Dakota was parked for the night 11 km west of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the engineer checking into a nearby hotel. Sometime shortly after, the unattended train began to roll away, toward Lac-Megantic -- investigators are still looking for the cause. The crude oil cars, rolling downhill, broke free of the locomotives and picked up speed, derailing at a curve in the center of Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of about 6,000 people. Six massive explosions followed, sending up huge fireballs and setting dozens of buildings ablaze. Thousands were evacuated, and so far, five deaths have been confirmed. Authorities worry the toll will climb much higher, as more than 40 residents are still listed as missing. [25 photos]

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Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. A large swath of Lac-Megantic was destroyed after a train carrying crude oil derailed, sparking several explosions and forcing the evacuation of up to 2,000 people. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. A large swath of Lac-Megantic was destroyed after a train carrying crude oil derailed, sparking several explosions and forcing the evacuation of up to 2,000 people. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Firefighters douse blazes in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Residents watch the burning buildings and freight train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A firefighter walks past burning train cars in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Destruction in Lac-Megantic cuts from the railyard to the waterfront, following a derailment and fire on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Residents watch rising smoke after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Smoke rises from burning railway cars in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Railway cars and buildings burn in Lac-Megantic, after a derailment on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Burnt buildings, after a train explosion in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
Firefighters work at the scene in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 7, 2013. Around 150 firefighters rushed to the scene following the derailment. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Burnrf buildings, near the wreckage of a train derailment in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A concerned resident waits near an aid station set up after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A firefighter at the scene of the train derailment in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Relief operations continue in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013, one day after a train derailment and subsequent explosion and fire. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Firefighters continue to pour water on the wreckage of a freight train loaded with oil that derailed July 6 in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A woman comforts her friend while they sit on the grass at the Polyvalente Montignac, a school sheltering people who were forced to leave their houses after the explosion, in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
A view of the burned core of Lac-Megantic from a lookout point above the town, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A burned vehicle sits near the wreckage of a train car and a melted traffic light, after a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Melted siding on a home near the scene of the train derailment and fire, in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A firefighter works at the site of the train explosion in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Paul Chiasson/Pool) #
Denis Lauzon, Fire Chief of the Lac-Megantic fire department, briefs reporters on July 7, 2013, as his crews continue to work on fires burning after a freight train loaded with oil derailed, on July 6. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A layer of crude oil lies on the surface of La Chaudiere River as it flows from the town of Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. An unknown volume of crude oil spilled from the train wreck, flowing into the river. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
People attend Mass to pray for the victims of Saturday's train derailment and subsequent explosion and fire, at a church in the village of Sainte-Cecile-de-Whitton, a few kilometers from Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 7, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #

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