News / Americas

Quebec Premier Lashes Out at Rail Company After Inferno

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois (foreground) speaks to reporters in Lac Megantic in this July 6, 2013, file photo.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois (foreground) speaks to reporters in Lac Megantic in this July 6, 2013, file photo.
Reuters
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois lashed out on Thursday at the railway boss whose runaway train leveled the center of a tiny Quebec town, as residents came to grips with the reality that 50 of their neighbors were likely dead.

“The behavior of the company and its president has been absolutely deplorable,” Marois said of the executive, Ed Burkhardt, and the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, whose driverless train of tanker cars smashed into Lac Megantic early on Saturday and exploded in a wall of fire.

The Quebec government is making a $58 million aid package available to the many people and businesses affected by the explosion.

The five-locomotive train was hauling 72 tanker cars of crude oil, part of a vast crude-by-rail expansion throughout North America as oil output soars in Canada and the U.S. state of North Dakota, and pipelines run out of space.

Police say they have recovered 20 bodies, with another 30 people still missing and now presumed dead.

Burkhardt said on Wednesday he thought the engineer had not set enough handbrakes when he parked his train late on Friday at the end of his shift, and he apologized to residents of the town of 6,000.

The words of remorse came too late for many locals, who accuse Burkhardt of shirking responsibility. A chaotic news conference he gave on Wednesday was interrupted by cries of “murderer” from angry residents.

“They still aren't taking the blame,” said one resident, who would give only her first name, Christiane.

Sifting through

More than 200 investigators are working day and night to sift through the charred wreckage in the center of the lakeside town in what authorities say is a crime scene. They have made no arrests.

A death toll of 50 would make the accident the worst rail crash in North America since 1989, and Canada's deadliest accident since in 1998, when a Swissair jet crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing 229 people.

But while the “red zone” in the center of town remains closed to all but investigators, some businesses have started to reopen and more than half of the 2,000 people evacuated from their homes on Saturday have been allowed to return.

Office supply shop owner Jean Dube, 54, said he was uncertain whether his insurance would cover his losses because of confusion over whether the building - which lies near the blast site - was damaged.

His shop will be off limits indefinitely as police and federal investigators sift through the area for bodies and clues to the cause of the crash. He said his store did not appear damaged, but emergency officials told him there was oil and toxic gas in his basement.

“There are details of our policy that we were not aware of. If the building is damaged, our lost revenue is covered for 12 months,” he said. “If there is no damage to the building, we get two weeks. This was shocking when we learned this. They told us that it is the same for other companies here as well.”

But the railway's loss will turn out to be truckers' short-term gain. Gaston Quirion, 59, owner of Quiroy trucking in Lac Megantic, said he expects to be overloaded with work with the temporary track closure and the restart of local business.

“The factories are restarting.... We expect much more work to supply the factories for a while because the train can't pass,” he said. He had about 20 trucks in his fleet. “We will need to request help from other companies. Before the train began stopping here we needed 75 trucks,” he added.

He said he and his girlfriend were out of town the night of the blast, but that his 75-year-old mother was in the apartment above his store.

“She said the inside of her room became bright like the day, even though the blinds were down,” he said. She escaped in her car unhurt.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Looting in Venezuelan Market Leaves One Dead, Dozens Hurt

Violence ensues after shoppers seeking scarce consumer staples break into a supermarket warehouse in Ciudad Guayana
More

Bomb Hurled at Former Brazilian President Lula's Foundation

Institute, located in downtown Sao Paulo, says no one was hurt in Thursday night explosion that damaged a garage entrance, calling blast a 'political attack'
More

Documents: Chile's Pinochet Covered Up Report on Death of US Student

Revealed by Washington-based National Security Archive, docs could shed light on 1986 incident, which became a symbol of government brutality during dictatorship
More

Rio Beefs Up Security With Olympics a Year Away

City to employ more than twice the number of security personnel for 2016 Games that London used in 2012; authorities not planning to occupy notorious favelas
More

Venezuela Troops Occupy Polar Food Distribution Warehouses

Move follows months of accusations by President Nicolas Maduro that Polar, country's largest private employer, working to sabotage the economy
More

Brazil Nuclear Leader's Arrest May Stymie Atomic Ambitions

Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva arrested Tuesday for allegedly taking 4.5 million reais in bribes from engineering firms working on long-delayed Angra 3 power plant
More