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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More

Hurricane Cristobal Kills Four, Moves Toward Bermuda

Storm is not expected to threaten US, but could cause deadly surf and rip currents from Florida to North Carolina
More

Peru's Congress Narrowly OKs Humala's New Cabinet on 3rd Vote

Lawmakers ratify president's embattled cabinet after ruling party offers to suspend rule requiring independent workers to pay into a pension program
More

Brazil's Deadly Prison Riot Ends

Officials say two inmates were beheaded during the Cascavel riot; two others were thrown to their deaths from the roof, and police are investigating how a fifth inmate died
More

Amid Slowdown, Chileans Adjust to New Economic Reality

Most economists now predict overall growth in country's economy of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year, down from 4.1 percent in 2013
More