On July 6, a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and crashed into the downtown of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, causing an explosion that leveled 30 buildings, including a popular bar. At the time of the disaster, 50 people were reported missing. After two weeks of searching, police now estimate that 47 people were killed.
In addition to the deadly blast, Edmonton Journal reports an estimated 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million litres) of oil were spilled as a result of the crash:
There were 7.2 million litres of light crude oil aboard the ill-fated Montreal Main & Atlantic Railway train, but Quebec’s Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks says about 5.7 million litres were released into the air, water and soil during the derailment.
Of the 72 tankers, which were carrying 100,000 litres each, only nine withstood the impact. Twenty tankers were completely emptied, and an additional 43 — with an estimated 600,000 litres among them — were drained and moved in the cleanup efforts following the deadly explosion.
The night of the disaster, the train had been left unattended while parked uphill from Lac-Mégantic. A fire began in one of the engine cars and firefighters shut down an engine car that was left running to power the air brakes.
On Tuesday, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive that aims to improve safety guidelines in effort to prevent similar disasters from occurring. Lynn Moore at The Montreal Gazette reports:
Effective immediately, the Transport Canada emergency directive requires all rail operators to:
Ensure that no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous goods is operated with fewer than two qualified persons on a main track or sidings;
Ensure that no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous goods is left unattended on a main track;
Ensure, within five days of the issuance of the directive, that all unattended controlling locomotives on a main track and sidings are protected from unauthorized entry into the cab;
Ensure the directional controls, commonly known as reversers, are removed from any unattended locomotives, preventing them from moving forward or backward, on a main track or sidings;
Ensure that their company’s special instructions on hand brakes are applied to any locomotive attached to one or more cars that is left unattended for more than one hour on a main track or sidings;
Ensure that, in addition to complying with their company’s special instructions on hand brakes referred to in the item immediately above, the automatic brake is set in full service position and the independent brake is fully applied for any locomotive attached to one or more cars that are left unattended for one hour or less on a main track or sidings.
For more on this story, see our original report.