Focus on Earlier Blaze in Quebec Train Derailment

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec - Investigators looking for the cause of a fiery oil train derailment are zeroing in on whether an earlier blaze on the same train may have set off a chain of events that led to the explosions that killed at least 13 people. Searchers, after days of delay, were examining the charred epicenter looking for what could be dozens of additional victims.

Nearly 40 people are still missing, not counting the 13 unidentified victims, suggesting the death toll was likely to rise sharply.

Officials were looking at a locomotive blaze on the same train in a nearby town a few hours before the derailment.

Transportation Safety Board investigator Donald Ross said the locomotive's black box has been recovered, and investigators were examining whether the air brakes or the hand brake malfunctioned.

"The extent to which (the fire) played into the sequences of events is a focal point of our investigation," Ross said.

All but one of the train's 73 cars were carrying oil. At least five of the train's tankers exploded after coming loose early Saturday, speeding downhill nearly seven miles (11 kilometers) and derailing into the town of Lac-Megantic, near the Maine border.

Officials said Tuesday that the fire is finally under control and that 1,200 out of about 2,000 evacuees will be able to go back to their homes.


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