Nightly News   |  July 08, 2013

Train derailment sparks ‘river of fire’  in Quebec  town

A runaway train filled with crude oil derailed in the town of  Lac-Megantic, where at least 40 buildings were destroyed when five of the train cars exploded. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

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>>> in canada tonight , we're learning more about what may have led to a runaway train disaster, huge explosion and fire over this past weekend. at least 13 people were killed initially. several dozen still missing tonight after tank cars filled with oil exploded in the center of a small town in quebec, not far from the maine border. katy tur there with the latest. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. investigators hoped to get to the heart of the blast today. they were finally able to do so. recovering more bodies, but with 37 more missing, this town is bracing for more bad news. moments after the crash, a towering fireball. new video shows the intensity of the flames.

>> i saw the fire, a river of fire, go through the houses over there. i was quite nervous.

>> reporter: it began around 1:00 a.m . saturday, seven miles north of lack m-megantic. the train was unmanned, parked for an overnight shift change, with swhou a number of the tanker cars became detached from openeer and rolled straight into town. a gradual slope, the tanker cars picked up speed and derailed. five cars exploded. 40 buildings destroyed.

>> i was supposed to be there.

>> reporter: these women were in the heart of the burn zone. they described the friends that they lost. as firefighters doused hotspots, hard questions about the safety of moving oil by barrel. 16 million barrels last year and 73 million this year, and 110 million by 2014 .

>> the regulations for rail transport weren't designed to support rail moving massive amounts of oil. it wouldn't be a surprise although all if regulations weren't up to the task of what's happening right now.

>> reporter: meanwhile, the scope of the tragedy in lac-megantic are still emerging, and it remains just as elusive of those lost.

>> tomorrow will be another day. we lost people and we lost our downtown. we lost everything. you know.

>> reporter: back out here live, you can see firefighters are still trying to stabilize the wreckage. as for the why? why did this all happen? there was a fire on the train earlier in the evening. it's unclear if that had anything to do with the derailment an hour and a half on friday. this train was inspected on friday, found nothing to be wrong with it. and hours later on