With millions of litres of crude oil being shipped on trains throughout North America, the Lac-Megantic disaster could have struck elsewhere, including in some of the country’s most densely-populated areas.

An online tool created by environmental non-profit group ForestEthics charts oil train routes across North America, allowing Canadians and Americans to determine exactly how close they live to the “blast zone.”

The tool uses U.S. Department of Transportation data to identify an 800-metre “red zone” evacuation area in case of an oil train derailment, as well as a 1.6-kilometre “yellow zone” evacuation area in the case of an oil train fire.

The group didn’t indicate how many Canadians live in the blast zone, but the map shows several major Canadian cities are home to oil-by-rail lines, including:

  • Montreal
  • Toronto
  • Winnipeg
  • Regina
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Vancouver

An oil train explosion similar to the one that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic has the potential to cause significant damage in those urban centres, where the rail lines come in close proximity to some densely populated areas. For example, according to the ForestEthics map, crude oil is shipped through midtown Toronto, downtown Calgary and downtown Vancouver.

The Transportation Safety Board made new recommendations on Tuesday to improve rail safety in Canada in the wake of the Lac-Megantic rail disaster.

Transport Canada announced earlier this year new rail and dangerous goods requirements aimed at safeguarding communities along railway lines.

Some of the changes included requiring new DOT-111 tank cars -- the same cars involved in the Lac-Megantic crash -- to have thicker steel walls to reduce the risk of spills on impact.