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Quebec train explosion caused by inadequate brakes, says company

Hundreds of investigators continue to sift through the wreckage of Saturday's train explosion in Quebec. In a news conference on Wednesday, the head of the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway pointed to insufficient hand brakes as a likely cause of the accident, which left 60 people missing or dead.

Investigation continues on Wednesday in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, after a train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil. Searchers have recovered 15 bodies from the wreckage so far, but they are so badly burnt that authorities have not been able to identify them.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

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The head of the company whose oil-tanker train exploded and devastated a small Quebec town faced cries of "murderer" from furious town residents on Wednesday and he said the train's hand brakes were likely not set properly, causing the calamity.

Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) Chairman Ed Burkhardt made his comments - his clearest yet on what he thought had gone wrong - as more than 200 investigators sifted through charred wreckage in the center in the eastern Quebec town of Lac-Magentic, in what authorities say is a crime scene. They have made no arrests.

Sixty people are either dead or missing after the train - which had been parked on a slope 12 km (8 miles) away on Friday night - moved off, without a driver, accelerating downhill into Lac-Megantic. There it derailed and blew up around 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Saturday.

Dozens of buildings were flattened in the historic center of the lakeside town, including a popular bar that was crowded when the explosion occurred.

One focus of the probe is whether the engineer, the train's only operator, set enough hand brakes on the train when he parked it at the end of his shift on Friday night.

"It's very questionable whether the hand brakes were properly applied on this train. As a matter of fact I'll say they weren't, or we wouldn't have had this incident," Burkhardt told an often raw and unruly outdoor news conference in Lac-Megantic.

As he spoke, irate town residents looked on and called out repeatedly, on occasion drowning out his words.


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