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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.

    More Americas News

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Worldwide cooperation, communication crucial in efforts to contain and control future viral outbreaks, experts say

    Power Rationing Forces Cuts in Hours at Venezuelan Malls

    Shopping centers told to generate own electricity in early afternoon, evening hours; move follows drought that hit hydroelectric generating systems

    In Cuba, Racial Inequality Deepens With Tourism Boom

    As capitalism creeps in more than 60 years after revolution that promised social equality, local residents, analysts concerned about gap between haves and have nots

    Video WFP: 3.6 Million Haitians Face Food Insecurity

    Half of Haiti's population works in agriculture; Around 75 percent live on less than $2 per day

    Video Olympics Technology Center Getting Ready for 2016 Games

    This year, the whole system will be cloud-based, enabling millions of fans around the world instant access to relevant information about the competition

    Red Cross Scales Up Community Action to Combat Zika

    ICRCS is mobilizing its large volunteer force in affected communities to help them clear up trash and areas where mosquitoes can breed