Several people were reported missing but Quebec provincial police Lt. Michel Brunet said it was too early to say if there are any casualties in the town of Lac-Megantic, about 155 miles east of Montreal.
The explosions ignited a blaze that sent flames shooting into the sky, and billowing smoke could be seen from several miles away hours after the derailment. Some of the train's 73 cars exploded and the fire spread to a number of homes in the town of 6,000 people.
Lac-Megantic resident Claude Bedard described the scene of the explosions as "dreadful."
"It's terrible," Bedard said. "We've never seen anything like it. The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone."