The Quebec Provincial Police on the weekend raised to 33 the death toll in the train derailment, explosion and fire that destroyed part of the small town of Lac-Megantic a week ago.

The police said Saturday at a press conference that recovery teams had found five more bodies in the charred ruins of the town's central area.

Authorities believe that 50 people died in the accident, which occurred a week ago Saturday, the worst railway disaster in modern Canadian history.

Police spokesman Michel Forget said that the work to recover the bodies of the victims is being made difficult because of the toxic conditions in the downtown area, where some 30 buildings - including a reportedly crowded bar - were virtually completely destroyed in the firestorm that resulted when the train comprising 72 tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and many of them blew up.

Because of the toxic conditions in the ground zero area of town, investigators and specialized body recovery teams are working in protective suits.

Quebec authorities also said that of the 33 sets of human remains recovered so far only nine have been able to be identified.

The accident occurred very early on the morning of Saturday, July 6, when evidently the brakes on a train parked on the tracks in the nearby town of Nantes failed or were not properly set and the train began rolling toward Lac-Megantic without an engineer on board.

An undetermined number of the tanker cars exploded when or after the train derailed in the little town of 6,000 located 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Montreal.

Some 30 buildings were destroyed and a large area of town was almost completely consumed in the firestorm, which raged for several hours.

A large number of the fatalities were in the Musi-Cafe bar, which stood alongside the tracks.

A witness who managed to escape the inferno said that there were between 30 and 50 people inside the bar at the time of the initial blast.

Canadian authorities have not made any statement as to what could have caused the accident.

However, the owners of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), the railroad company that operated the train, said that the engineer had gone off shift and parked the train 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Lac-Megantic without setting all the handbrakes properly.

However, Canadian authorities have said they don't believe that the accident was caused by a single factor or person.

The engineer survived the tragedy and MMA president Edward Burkhardt said that he has been suspended without pay. EFE