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Quebec train fire: Search continues in oil train derailment

Quebec train fire caused at least five fatalities and has left about 40 people missing. The Quebec train fire is like to add to a debate over a proposed oil running across the US that Canada says it badly needs.

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Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday. The Quebec train fire forced the evacuation of up to 1,000 people.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press/AP

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A Quebec town devastated when a runaway oil tanker train exploded killing at least five people braced for a rising death toll Monday as fire crews tried to reach the hardest hit areas where about 40 people were believed to be missing.

All but one of the train's 73 tanker cars were carrying oil when they somehow came loose early Saturday morning, sped downhill nearly seven miles (11 kilometers) into the town of Lac-Megantic, near the Maine border, and derailed, with at least five of the cars exploding.

Firefighters on Monday were focusing their efforts on two oil-filled cars dousing them with water and foam in an attempt to keep them from overheating and exploding.

Quebec provincial police Sgt. Benoit Richard said Monday morning 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 at a popular downtown establishment when the explosions occurred and rescuers were still not able to reach it, Richard said.

"Hopefully we'll be able to open up more areas for searching during the day," he said.

About a third of the community of 6,000 was forced from of their homes by the explosion and flames.

The growing number of trains transporting crude oil in Canada and the United States had raised concerns of a major disaster, and this derailment was sure to add to the debate over a proposed oil pipeline running across the U.S. that Canada says it badly needs.

"This is an unbelievable disaster," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who toured the town 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."

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