Death Toll Rises in Canadian Train Explosion

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Canadian authorities raised the death toll from a major train accident to 50 Friday. Officials are still investigating the derailment that set off a fiery explosion in Québec.

The freight train - operated by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway -- had been stopped Saturday for a crew change when it began to roll downhill without a conductor.

It derailed at a curve in the tracks and several of its cars exploded near the town of Lac-Megantic. All but one of the 73 cars were carrying oil.

Twenty bodies were found, and the missing 30 people are now considered dead. The fiery blast incinerated 30 nearby buildings and forced thousands from their homes.

Edward Burkhardt, head of the railway's parent company, blamed the train's engineer for "improperly setting its brakes" before the disaster.

Burkhardt, who didn't arrive in Québec until Wednesday, has drawn criticism for his handling of the tragedy.

"The leader of this company should have been there from the beginning," Quebec Premier Pauline Marois charged.

Lac-Megantic's mayor, Colette Roy-Laroche, shared the premier's sentiment.

"I am angry with the fact that he did not communicate with me sooner," she said.

Meanwhile, Bukhardt apologized, explaining he felt he was better able to manage the crisis from his Chicago office.

"I understand the extreme anger," he said. "We owe an abject apology to the people in this town."

The July 6 tragedy is Canada's worst railway accident since 1864 when a train plunged into a Quebec river, killing 99.

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