The death toll from Saturday’s blast stands at five; there are fears it will rise further as 40 people are missing.
PM Stephen Harper said the affected area looked like a war-zone.
The pre-dawn explosion sent a fireball and black smoke into the air, destroying dozens of buildings and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people.
“It’s a difficult to explain what’s happened here… a large part of the down-town has been destroyed,” said Mr Harper after touring Lac-Megantic.
He said some 30 buildings had been incinerated in the historic centre of the town, which is some 250km (155 miles) east of Montreal.
He promised a full inquiry, but said it was too early to allocate blame for the disaster.
“There’ll be investigations to ascertain what happened and to ensure it never happens again,” said Mr Harper.
Police are trying to account for dozens of missing people – popular bars near the blast site were said to have been crowded at the time.
“There are about 40 people, more or less, who are considered to be missing,” police spokesman Michel Brunet told reporters. “There could be more, there could be less.”
Police said earlier they expected the death toll to rise, but were checking whether people reported missing were simply away on holiday.
‘It’s a mess’
Two of five cars that exploded were still ablaze nearly 36 hours later, Lac-Megantic Fire Chief Denis Lauzon told reporters on Sunday morning.
Firefighters have been battling the flames with water and a fire retardant, but are staying at least 1,000 ft from the burning tankers for fear of more blasts, he added.
About 30 buildings – including some of the town’s most historic structures – were obliterated by the blast.
“We lost the bibliotheque [library] which had all the memories of people here – it’s a mess,” said Chief Lauzon.
The five bodies found are so charred they have been sent to Montreal for identification, police say.
The fires have been so intense and have burnt for so long that Quebec police warn some bodies may never be recovered.
People whose homes have been badly damaged are being sheltered at a nearby school.
The train’s 73 cars carrying pressurised containers of crude oil reportedly uncoupled from five locomotive engines parked outside the town around 01:00 (06:00 BST) on Saturday, gathering speed as they rolled down the tracks before derailing in Lac-Megantic.
Eyewitnesses said that by the time the cars reached the town they were travelling at considerable speed.
Fire Chief Denis Lauzon: “We still have a risk of explosions as we still have tankers on fire”
Bernard Demers, who runs a restaurant near the blast site, said the fireball that followed the derailment was “like an atomic bomb”, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
A one-kilometre exclusion zone was set up amid fears of more pressurised containers exploding.
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train was parked in the village of Nantes – about 7km (four miles) from Lac-Megantic – during an overnight driver shift-change, said a company spokesman.
A driver had parked the train and put the brakes of its engines on “properly” before going to a local hotel for the night, said the spokesman, Joe McGonigle.
But the fuel cars somehow became uncoupled, causing them to roll downhill into the town and derail, he added.
A lakeside town that is home to some 6,000 people, Lac-Megantic is close to the US border with Maine and Vermont, and is 130 miles north of Maine’s capital, Augusta.
- Train explodes in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec forcing residents to flee (thestar.com)
- Lac Megantic death toll rises (updatednews.ca)
- Canada runaway train death toll rises (bbc.co.uk)
- Death toll rises to five after Lac-Megantic levelled by train explosion (globalnews.ca)
- Canada train blast: Lac-Megantic death toll set to rise: Bakken oil to blame (climate-connections.org)
- 1 confirmed dead after unmanned train derails, explodes in Lac-Megantic (montreal.ctvnews.ca)
- A number of derailed train’s 73 cars exploded, causing a fire that spread to several of buildings in Lac-Megantic, Quebec – @CTVToronto (ctvnews.ca)
- Train Derails, Explodes In Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Town Center Ablaze, Entire Town Evacuated, 60 Missing, Scores Feared Dead (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
- Lac-Megantic Train Crash: Small Town Mostly Destroyed, Many Missing (+Photos) (theepochtimes.com)
- Canada train blast site ‘a war zone’ (bbc.co.uk)