News / Americas

Quebec Town Grapples with Loss in Train Wreck Aftermath

A police officer looks at the train wreckage in Lac-Megantic, July 9, 2013.
A police officer looks at the train wreckage in Lac-Megantic, July 9, 2013.
Reuters
Residents of the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec were coming to grips on Thursday with the reality that 50 of their own were most likely dead in the aftermath of the worst railway disaster in North American in more than two decades.
 
Five days after a train hauling 72 cylinders of crude oil jumped the track and exploded into a wall of fire, provincial police said they had recovered 20 bodies, with another 30 people still missing and presumed dead, confirming the worst fears of a community that had all but given up hope.
 
“She's dead,” said Jean-Guy Lapierre of his niece, holding a copy of a Quebec tabloid that had printed pictures of some of the town's missing young people on its front page. “She was just 28.”
 
The crash and subsequent explosions rocked the eastern Canadian town of Lac-Megantic shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday, leveling its historic downtown strip.
 
Numerous houses and businesses were burned to the ground, including the Musi-Cafe, a popular bar that was packed with people, eyewitnesses told Reuters.
 
On Wednesday, the head of the railway company said the engineer probably did not set enough handbrakes when he parked his train some eight miles (13 km) west of town late on Friday, leading to the deadly accident. The official apologized to residents of the town of about 6,000.
 
The words of remorse came too late for many locals who remain angry at the company - Montreal Maine and Atlantic - and accuse chairman Ed Burkhardt of shirking responsibility for the accident.
 
“They still aren't taking the blame,” said Christiane, a woman who lived near the blast site and declined to give her last name. “First it's the firemen, now the engineer, who will they blame tomorrow?”
 
Burkhardt had previously said that the air brakes that would have prevented the disaster failed because they were powered by an engine that was shut down by firefighters as they dealt with a fire shortly before the catastrophe occurred.
 
On Wednesday, his focus was squarely on the engineer.
 
“It's very questionable whether the hand brakes were properly applied on this train,” he told a crush of reporters. “As a matter of fact, I'll say they weren't, or we wouldn't have had this incident.”
 
More than 200 investigators are working day and night to sift through the charred wreckage in the center of town in what authorities say is a crime scene. They have made no arrests.
 
A death toll of 50 would make the accident Canada's deadliest since in 1998, when a Swissair jet crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing 229 people.
 
It would also be North America's worst rail crash since 1989, when 112 people died when an 11-car passenger train plunged off a bridge in Mexico.
 
But there were glimmers of hope too.
 
Nicole Carrier, who works at a local hospital, was shocked to open a newspaper Wednesday morning and see her own face  under the headline: 'Have you seen these people?'
 
“It's Facebook's fault,” said Carrier, explaining that a friend's daughter had posted a frantic message on the social media service asking if she and her partner were still alive. The couple, who were evacuated from their home and did not have access to the Internet, did not respond.
 
Her partner, Bernard Fortier, added that their faces were still being broadcast on television as part of the missing.
 
“This morning, I went to the police station, and they said, 'oh, we're so happy to see you alive, Mr. Fortier,”' he said with a smile.
 
MMA is one of many North American railroads that have  stepped up crude-by-rail deliveries as producers seek alternatives to pipelines that have been stretched to capacity by higher U.S. and Canadian output.
 
That has led to a shift in the type of rail cars passing through small towns like Lac-Megantic. According to residents, the trains used to carry mainly lumber, but now they carry various hazardous materials.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

US Senator Helped Cuban Prisoner Become a Father

After visiting Cuba last year Sen. Patrick Leahy helped arrange artificial insemination for Gerardo Hernandez, one of so-called 'Cuban Five,' and his wife, Adriana Perez
More

Haiti’s First Family Under Corruption Probe Cloud

President Michel Martelly's son and wife are accused of abuse of authority, money laundering and squandering public funds
More

Video Washington Week: Focus on Cuba, North Korea

President Obama, lawmakers out of town for holidays but many remain transfixed with US-Cuba thaw, Sony Pictures hack
More

Health Minister Named as Haiti's New Interim Prime Minister

Announcement is part of effort to resolve a mounting political crisis over long-delayed elections
More

Kerry: US-Cuba Thaw Will Advance Interests for Both

Secretary of state says 11 million people of Cuba have waited far too long - more than half a century - to 'fulfill their democratic aspirations' and build closer ties with rest of world
More

Cuba's Famed Cigars Get a Foot in Door of US Market

Under new rules to be implemented soon, US will make it easier for some Americans to travel to Cuba and they will be able to return with $100 worth of alcohol, tobacco
More