Quebec oil train disaster

This video is called Lac-Megantic Explosions, Fire Sparked By Train Derailment in Canada.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Train blast death toll set to rise

Sunday 07 July 2013

by Our Foreign Desk

Canadian police warned today that they expected “many” more deaths after a train carrying oil crude derailed sparking explosions and fireballs.

Fires destroyed the town centre of Lac-Megantic in eastern Quebec and were still raging more than 24 hours after the 1am derailment early on Saturday.

The explosions sent residents scrambling through the streets under the intense heat of towering fireballs.

Flames and billowing black smoke could still be seen long after the 73-wagon train derailed.

Up to 2,000 people were forced from their homes in the lakeside town of 6,000 people about 155 miles east of Montreal.

Quebec police Lieutenant Michel Brunet confirmed that one person had died. He refused to say how many others might be dead, but said authorities have been told “many” people have been reported missing.

The train had been parked overnight at the top of a nearby hill but the brakes apparently failed and it came crashing down, coming off the tracks at a bend.

The derailment caused several tanker wagons to explode in the town centre, a popular area packed with bars that often bustles on summer weekend nights.

The fire then spread to several homes.

The blasts came over a span of several hours as the fire tore through the centre of town, destroying at least 30 buildings.

By Jeff Lusanne:

Death toll rises in Quebec train derailment and explosion

8 July 2013

A rail accident and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec is proving to be one of the deadliest railway derailments in Canada in decades. Five people are confirmed dead, and officials warn the death toll is likely to rise much higher.

According to authorities, 40 people remain unaccounted for. Due to the intensity of the fire that was triggered by the derailment and subsequent explosions, the remains of the dead may prove very difficult to identify.

Residents are in shock, awaiting word on the whereabouts of family members and friends. At the height of the fire as many as 2,000 of the 6,000 residents of Lac-Mégantic, a town located in the Eastern Townships near the border with Maine, were told to evacuate their homes.

A 72-car train of crude oil, operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), was stopped Friday night 6.8 miles (11 km) away from Lac-Mégantic in Nantes, Quebec, where it was to switch crews. For reasons that are pending investigation the train began to move after the crew left. It then rolled downhill to Lac-Mégantic, where it derailed at excess speed on a curve in the center of town.

The derailment may have significant environmental impact. In addition to air quality concerns from the burning oil that prompted evacuations, an undetermined amount of crude oil has spilled into the Chaudiere River and begun to travel downriver to other towns. …

Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a press release in Lac-Mégantic on Sunday afternoon after a brief visit to the disaster-site. He said that “it is hard to explain what happened here,” but promised steps would be taken to “make sure this can’t happen again.”

In reality, the Harper government has a record of defending aggressive cuts to personnel, maintenance, and service in the railway industry, while supporting the rapid expansion of the shipment of oil by rail—actions that can only lead to further such tragedies. In May 2012 Harper’s Conservative government passed back-to-work legislation ending an eight-day strike by workers of Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).

CP Rail workers were striking against the company’s plans to drastically restructure the railroad to boost shareholder profits. With the strike defeated, CP has proceeded to lay off 3,000 of its 19,500 personnel, and CEO Hunter Harrison has said the layoffs might ultimately rise to 6,000, or 30 percent of the workforce. CP workers now have longer hours at more irregular times, and their pensions have been cut. CP has combined trains to run them longer and save on crews, closed down railroad yards, and avoided significant investment towards upgrading its trackage.

Railroads in Canada are largely self-regulated, carrying out their own inspections of infrastructure. Profititability pressures meanwhile cause the railways to press for “lean” operations with reduced staffing and to skimp on the upkeep of physical infrastructure.

MMA is an example of this situation. It operates over 500 miles of railroad in Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick that were sold by larger railroads (like CP) when the lumber, paper, and other local industries began to decline. MMA has sold some of its own trackage to the state of Maine, using the threat of abandonment to get the state’s investment in maintenance while retaining the right to operate over it. MMA owner Ed Burkhardt has pushed for one-man remote control operations to reduce labor costs by making engineers control trains while doing work on the ground.

Over the past decade several small derailments at low speed on poor trackage have caused chemical leaks. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, since 2000 MMA trains have spilled hazardous chemicals seven times.

The transport of crude oil is part of a new booming business for MMA and other railroads in the US and Canada, since rail is the most cost-effective and flexible option for getting vastly expanded crude production from fracking to oil refineries. While the exact reasons for the accident in Lac-Mégantic are unclear, rising hazardous material transport combined with market pressure to cut labor and infrastructure costs pose the risk of further such catastrophes.

Thirteen people are now confirmed dead and dozens still missing after the massive explosion caused by a runaway oil tanker train that derailed and flattened part of small Canadian town Lac-Megantic: here.

It is now all but certain that last Saturday’s derailment, explosion, and fire in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec killed four dozen or more people, making it the deadliest train disaster in Canada in more than a century: here.

The background to the Lac-Mégantic disaster: Deregulation, profit and the Canadian rail industry: here.

North Dakota train explosion raises questions about oil transport safety: here.

3 thoughts on “Quebec oil train disaster

  1. The accident has thrown a spotlight on the company’s safety record.

    Over the past decade, it has consistently recorded a much-higher accident rate than the national average in the US, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration.

    The firm had 36.1 accidents last year per million miles traveled by its trains. The national average was 14.6.

    It has had 34 other derailments since 2003, including one death.


  2. Pingback: Canadian rail boss scapegoats driver for disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Canadian rich getting richer | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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