A rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Que. that caused deadly explosions have people questioning the safety of oil transport on Canada's west coast.

Five people are dead and about 40 remain missing after a train carrying crude oil derailed in the small town of 6,000 people, destroying much of the downtown including a grocery store, library and popular bar. City hall remains off-limits to the town's residents.

Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, warns that B.C. and other provinces could see increased risk as oil transport by rail ramps up, The Vancouver Sun reported.

"This is a huge risk to our communities, rail lines go through the heart of communities right across this country as well as along our major waterways," he told the newspaper.

Stewart went on to say that two per cent of Canada's oil was shipped by rail in 2012, a threefold increase over what was moved in 2011, and the amount is expected to double or triple again this year.

The news is especially concerning for B.C. as demand ramps up for oil in Asia. Newspaper mogul and refinery proponent David Black has floated the idea of moving crude oil by rail, arguing it is safer than a pipeline, CTV News reported.

And he may be right. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in an oil market outlook report from May that the risk of a rail spill is six times higher than a pipeline spill, but that pipelines spill more when they break.

B.C. politicians are reassuring residents about disaster response in the wake of the explosions. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is prepared to respond with a Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team, The Province reported.

He added that Vancouver doesn't face the same train speeds as in other towns because the city is at the "terminus of those tracks," though he admitted that aging infrastructure remains a concern.

"With aging tracks and infrastructure and bridges, we have to be on guard and alert to any changes," he said.

Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese is also reassuring constituents, saying that the town has a full-time fire department trained for derailments.

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  • Work continues at the crash site of the train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Que., on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, that left 37 people confirmed dead and another 13 missing and presumed dead.

  • Work continues at the crash site of the train derailment and fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Que. that left 37 people confirmed dead and another 13 missing and presumed dead.

  • Work continues at the crash site of the train derailment and fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Que. that left 37 people confirmed dead and another 13 missing and presumed dead.

  • A fireman walks through the debris as work continues at the crash site of the train derailment and fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Que. that left 37 people confirmed dead and another 13 missing and presumed dead.

  • A levelled building is seen in the foreground the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Harper, right, surveys the scene Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, as firefighters continue to spray derailed tanker cars. A runaway train derailed Saturday causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil and destroyed part of the downtown area of Lac Megantic.

  • Prime Minister Harper, centre, talks with firefighters Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday exploding tanker cars carrying crude oil and destroying part of the downtown area of Lac Megantic.

  • Prime Minister Stepen Harperwaves to people as he visits the site Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, where a runaway train derailed Saturday. Tanker cars carrying oil exploded after the derailment and destroyed the business district in Lac Megantic.

  • Firefighters keep watering railway cars the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • The downtown of Lac Megantic, Que. is seen Sunday, July 7, 2013, the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil.