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Five bodies found in Quebec runaway train blast, dozens missing

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At least five people are confirmed dead and around 40 more are missing after a runaway freight train carrying petroleum products derailed from a parking spot and slammed into a Quebec town, setting off a series of explosions and a massive fire.

Investigators have only been able to explore a small area of the crash site as firefighters continue to secure the scene, but the black box -- which records data like the train's speed and direction -- has been recovered from inside the locomotive, authorities announced at a Sunday evening press conference. Police hope the recording will give some insight into what caused the train to suddenly begin to roll from its parking spot and crash into the town.

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, the company that owns the train, said in a statement Sunday that the locomotive’s brakes may have failed and caused it to start rolling.

“One fact that has emerged is the locomotive of the oil train parked at Nantes station was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer who had handled the train from Farnham, which may have resulted in the release of air brakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place,” the company said.

Authorities on Sunday would not speculate on the company’s assessment until the Transportation Safety Board was able to complete their investigation. Donald Ross, who heads the TSB’s review of the accident, said there are currently nine investigators on the scene and more are on the way.

Fires were finally extinguished more that 24 hours after the driverless train carrying petroleum products derailed in the town, but officials said there was still a risk of explosion. 

"We still have a risk of explosion because there are still two tankers on fire," a fire official said at the press conference on Sunday. "We still have two tankers that we have problems with."

"It is a mess, we lost great buildings, historic buildings here in Lac-Megantic," he added. "We had the bibliotheque [library] with great memories of people here destroyed. It is a mess."

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the scene on Sunday, calling it an “unbelievable disaster.”

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