The railroad company responsible for the runaway tanker train that caused deadly explosions in Lac-Megantic, Que.,has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Maine-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. announced Wednesday that it has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States.

The company’s Canadian subsidiary, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Canada Co., simultaneously filed a petition in Quebec Superior Court seeking relief from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

“It has become apparent that the obligations of both companies now exceed the value of their assets, including prospective insurance recoveries, as a direct result of the tragic derailment at Lac-Megantic, Quebec on July 6th,” MMA board chairman Edward Burkhardt said in a news release.

Seeking bankruptcy protection “is the best way to ensure fairness of treatment to all in these tragic circumstances,” he added.

The derailment of a 72-car tanker train carrying crude oil destroyed half of Lac-Megantic’s downtown core and killed at least 47 people. Forty-two bodies have been recovered from the disaster zone. The families of five other people have been warned that their remains may never be found.

In bankruptcy court documents, MMA said it has lost much of its freight business as a result of the derailment because trains currently aren’t running on its Canadian line between Maine and Quebec.

The company said its aggregate gross revenues declined from $3 million to approximately $1 million per month.

Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday that the bankruptcy filing “does not mean that MM&A is off the hook for their responsibilities to the people of Lac-Megantic.  

“We will work with the Province of Quebec to ensure that the clean-up continues and that the people of Lac-Megantic continue to receive the support they need,” she said in a statement.

Ottawa has pledged $60 million to help clean up Lac-Megantic and rebuild the local economy. 

Burkhardt said Wednesday that MMA “wishes to continue to work with the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, the municipality of Lac-Megantic, and other government authorities in the continuing environmental remediation and clean-up as long as is necessary, and will do everything within its capacity to achieve completion of such goal.”

Class-action lawsuits are being planned against the company and the town of Lac-Megantic has said that it’s considering suing MMA to recoup $8 million in cleanup costs.

The derailment is still under investigation.

MMA says its U.S. and Canadian branches currently employ 85 people, who will “receive their wages and benefits under the laws of both the United States and Canada.”

Essential rail services will continue at stations in Quebec, Maine and Vermont, the company said.

“The people of Lac-Megantic have suffered a great deal over the last month. We are joined in sorrow, a sorrow that will remain a part of me for the rest of my life,” Burkhardt said in his statement.