A derailed Via train car slammed into the garage of a house in Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Que. ((CBC))

A Via passenger train travelling from Halifax to Montreal derailed Thursday morning near Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse outside Quebec City, injuring four people and causing significant damage to nearby homes.

Family and friends of passengers can contact Via's emergency line at 1-877-747-0707.

About 120 people were on board passenger train No. 15, known as the Ocean, when all of its cars went off the track and the locomotive tipped over at around 4:45 a.m., said Via spokeswoman Ashley Doyle.

Earlier reports said seven passengers suffered minor injuries, but Via later confirmed four people sustained small bruises, cuts, and back injuries. At least one person was sent to hospital while others were treated for shock on site.

The crash happened very close to a row of homes in Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse, about 20 kilometres southeast of Lévis on the south side of the St. Lawrence River.

Two homes next to the tracks were extensively damaged by the train.

About 11,350 litres of diesel fuel were spilled during the derailment, but local fire authorities said the spill didn't cause any environmental damage.

It's not yet clear what exactly caused the derailment, but the railroad switches from one track to two tracks as it passes through Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse. 

Passengers bumped around

Patricia Drew and her husband were travelling from Moncton when they were jolted awake in their sleeper car.

"It was just like the train was coming to a sudden stop, like something had stepped in front of the train," Drew said.

"The brakes were squealing and the train was shaking a bit. And my husband said to me, "I think we might have derailed."

Mount Allison University student Mathieu Roy was brushing his teeth when the train derailed. "I got jostled around, and then the train was at like a 45-degree angle," he said, as he arrived by bus at the Montreal train station.

Via shuttled passengers on a charter bus after the accident.

Impact felt like an earthquake

Resident Rose Anne Cameron said she was inside her house and awake when everything started to shake.

"I was sure it was an earthquake," Cameron told CBC's French-language service. "Dishes were breaking everywhere, mirrors. I was sure it was an earthquake."


CN workers inspect a tipped locomotive that damaged a house in Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse. ((Clément Allard/Canadian Press))

"When I looked outside, I saw there was a train in my garage."

Cameron called 911 before going outside to inspect the damage. She said her home shifted a foot and a half because of the impact.

"We're waiting for the insurance company now," she said.

The Montreal-Halifax train left the Nova Scotia capital at 12:30 p.m. AT on Wednesday.

The overnight train normally runs the route six days a week except Tuesday, passing through New Brunswick with a stop in Moncton. But this derailment might affect service, Doyle said.

The agency was to hold a news conference in Montreal to explain the situation.

Canada's Transportation and Safety Board is investigating the accident.