OTTAWA: Canada’s main opposition party called on Thursday (Friday in Manila) for tougher rail-industry regulations after a weekend derailment and explosion in a small Quebec town left 50 people dead or missing.
The New Democratic Party notably pressed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to set a deadline for phasing out the use of DOT-111 tank cars in the transport of hazardous materials.
It also urged the end of the current practice of having a single engineer aboard a train “when dangerous goods are being transported.”
Part of a train made up of 72 tank cars loaded with crude oil derailed in the early hours of Saturday in Lac-Megantic, near the Quebec-Maine border, igniting a huge explosion that laid waste to the center of the lakeside town.
Twenty-four people have been confirmed dead and 26 remain unaccounted for with little hope of being found alive, Quebec provincial police said on Thursday, as accident investigators continued to comb through the rubble.
The first victim to be identified was a 93-year-old local woman, the coroner’s office said.
Police said another 600 people out of some 2,000 initially evacuated during the disaster were allowed to return on Thursday as police trimmed their area of search, but some 200 remain at shelters.
The train was hauling crude oil from North Dakota via Montreal and the northern part of Maine to a refinery in the Canadian Maritime province of New Brunswick.
The head of the US-owned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway has faulted the train’s engineer for failing to properly set the hand brakes before it raced out of control down the tracks into Lac-Megantic.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board says the DOT-111 tank car is widely used by railways across North America to carry products as varied as corn oil and petroleum products.