The rising death toll from the July 6 train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec has made the incident the worst Canadian train disaster in more than 103 years.
A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. train carrying 72 carloads of crude rolled from an overnight parking spot into the town, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Montreal, where it derailed and exploded, razing about 30 buildings. Twenty bodies have been recovered and a total of about 50 people are “probably dead,” Chief Inspector Michel Forget of the Surete du Quebec police, said yesterday.
That toll would put the Quebec incident as the deadliest train disaster since Jan. 21, 1910, when the back half of a Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. passenger train derailed, killing 63 at Spanish River, Ontario. The train, heading for Minneapolis, came off the tracks after it struck the end of a bridge, according to a government database.
Lac-Megantic’s fatalities surpass other train disasters in Canada in the past century, including a Dec. 27, 1942 accident when a troop train smashed into the rear of a packed passenger train in darkness at a station in Almonte, Ontario, killing 36.
A Sept. 1, 1947 crash between two passenger trains in Dugald, Manitoba killed 31 people, and a collision between a Canadian National Railway Co. freight train and a VIA Rail passenger train near Hinton, Alberta on Feb. 8, 1986 killed 23 people, according to the database.
Among the worst rail disasters in Canadian history was near Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec on June 29, 1864 when a passenger train traveling to Montreal from Quebec City failed to stop as it approached an open swing bridge over the Richelieu River and plunged into the water, killing an estimated 99 people.
The blast from Lac-Megantic’s train crash is also among the deadliest in Canada since the Halifax explosion on Dec. 6, 1917, when the French munitions freighter Mont-Blanc collided with a relief ship in the city’s harbor. The Mont-Blanc caught fire and exploded, devastating Halifax and Dartmouth. The blast killed 1,963 people, injured 9,000 and destroyed 1,600 buildings, and left 6,000 people homeless, according to Public Safety Canada.