The center of a Quebec town has been wiped out, according to the mayor, after a runaway freight train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a fireball at 1am on Saturday.

About 30 buildings were destroyed and 60 people are believed to be missing, but the force of the fire has prevented rescue workers from searching for survivors.

Parts of the town were evacuated in the early hours as fireballs shot several metres in the air, flames spread to nearby homes and thick acrid smoke filled the air in Lac-Megantic, which is close to the Maine border and about 250km from Montreal.

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