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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

US, Cuba Talks Resume With Focus on Embassies

Fourth round of talks aimed at overcoming obstacles to opening embassies in each other's capitals and re-establishing diplomatic ties
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More

Chinese Premier Visits South America

Brazil is the first stop on Chinese premier Li’s tour of Latin America
More

2 US Senators Would Require Cuba to Address Claims

Republican Senators Rubio, Vitter say Cuba needs to address up to $8 billion in outstanding claims by US citizens, businesses for properties confiscated by Castros before trade, travel embargoes lifted
More

Canada Detains 10 Youths Suspected of Jihadist Ambitions

Authorities said the families and friends of the detainees are being interviewed but no charges have yet been filed
More