Update 12:30 p.m. EDT: The known death toll is now five and 40 are missing, the CBC reports. 


Canadian police Sunday raised the death toll from a runaway freight train explosion in the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic to three and said they expected to find more bodies, Reuters reported.

The driverless train derailed and exploded Saturday, destroying dozens of buildings in the center of the town near the Maine border.

"Three bodies have been found," police spokesman Michel Brunet said. "People have been reported missing or disappeared but ... we are not going to issue a figure. We know there are going to be more deaths."

Fires continued burning more than 24 hours after the runaway train carrying crude oil derailed. The eruptions sent residents of Lac-Megantic scrambling through the streets under the intense heat of towering fireballs and a red glow that illuminated the night sky, witnesses said. Flames and billowing black smoke could still be seen long after the 73-car train derailed, and a fire chief likened the charred scene to a war zone, the Associated Press reported.

Up to 2,000 people were forced from their homes in the lakeside town of 6,000 people, which is about 155 miles east of Montreal and about 10 miles west of the Maine border.

The cause of the accident was believed to be a runaway train, the railway's operator said. The president and CEO of Rail World Inc., the parent company of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said the train had been parked uphill of Lac-Megantic.

"If brakes aren't properly applied on a train, it's going to run away," said Edward Burkhardt. "But we think the brakes were properly applied on this train." Burkhardt, who was mystified by the disaster, said the train was parked because the engineer had finished his run. "We've had a very good safety record for these 10 years," he said of the decade-old railroad. "Well, I think we've blown it here."