Published July 20, 2013
OTTAWA, Province of Ontario (AFP) – The final death toll of a train derailment that flattened part of a Quebec town two weeks ago will likely stand at 47, Canadian police said on Friday.
No new remains have been discovered in the rubble since Thursday, when the number of confirmed dead was 42, officials said.
The number of those missing in the July 6 tragedy meanwhile has been narrowed to five, bringing the presumed number of people killed to 47, they added.
"Our investigation has not uncovered any new deceased persons," Quebec police inspector Michel Forget told a news conference.
"However we can now inform you that our investigation and various enquiries... have permitted us to establish the number of dead, including missing and presumed dead, at 47," he said.
Investigators on Saturday are bringing in heavy machinery, including cranes, to move out the destroyed and mangled train cars, Forget said.
The search for human remains will resume Sunday, he said.
The runaway oil tanker train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, a resort town of 6,000 near the Canada-US border, unleashing an inferno that gutted two square kilometers of the town center.
The area remains cordoned off as a crime scene.
Finding and identifying the missing remains is extremely difficult. The raging inferno reached such intensity at its peak that only small body parts remain, and investigators are asking friends and relatives toothbrushes belonging to the victims so that they can retrieve DNA samples to compare with the found remains.
Up to now only 22 bodies have been identified, officials said.
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train had been parked overnight at the nearby town of Nantes for a crew changeover when it slipped away, derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded.
The train was carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota in 72 tanker cars through Lac-Megantic to an Irving Oil refinery in New Brunswick.
The chairman of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway has said that the disaster appeared to have been caused by an engineer's failure to properly set hand brakes on the train.
Canada's Transportation Safety Board ordered railways to check the brakes on all trains as a precaution, warned operators not to leave trains unattended on main lines, and urged them to review their protocols for transporting dangerous goods.