UPDATE 3-Quebec police open criminal probe after deadly train crash

Tue Jul 9, 2013 7:43pm EDT
 
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By Richard Valdmanis and Julie Gordon

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, July 9 (Reuters) - Canadian police on Tuesday said they had opened a criminal investigation into the train explosion that likely killed 50 people in Lac-Megantic, and some 200 officers were scouring the town's devastated center for clues.

Inspector Michel Forget said police did not believe terrorism was involved when a runaway train hauling 72 cars of crude oil barreled into town early on Saturday, derailed on a curve and exploded into a huge fireball that destroyed the center of the lakeside community.

"I will not speculate on the evidence that we've recovered because (it is) secret," Forget said. But he indicated that some evidence might point to "criminal acts."

"We don't think the terrorism aspect is a part of that," he added. "Criminal negligence might be one of the leads we are looking at."

Almost a third of the town's 6,000 residents were evacuated from their homes as firefighters from Canada and the nearby U.S. states of Maine and Vermont struggled to bring the massive blaze under control. Just over half have been allowed back.

Montreal Maine & Atlantic, which owned the train, is one of many North American railroads that have vastly stepped up crude-by-rail deliveries as producers seek alternatives to pipelines that have been stretched to capacity by higher output in Canada and North Dakota.

The oil in the train that crashed was being transported from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to eastern Canada.   Continued...