UPDATE 8-Oil-laden freight train explodes in Canadian town, people killed

Sat Jul 6, 2013 11:40pm EDT
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* Canadian police say death toll now one, will rise

* Runaway train jumped rails early in morning

* Transporting crude oil from North Dakota to eastern Canada

* Disaster could figure in debate on Keystone XL pipeline

By Mathieu Belanger

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, July 6 (Reuters) - A fast-moving, driverless train hauling tankers of crude oil derailed and exploded into a sky-high fireball in the middle of a small Canadian town early on Saturday, destroying dozens of buildings and killing several people.

The disaster took place soon after 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) when the runaway freight train with 72 cars and five locomotives hurtled into Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of about 6,000 in the province of Quebec, and left the tracks.

Police spokesman Guy Lapointe said one person had died, and that toll would rise, but he declined to comment on media reports that anywhere between 40 and 80 people were missing.

"We have already confirmed one death and we expect there will be others," he told a news conference. "We also expect that the number of people reported missing will be greater than the final death toll."   Continued...