Lac-Megantic Train Derailment, 50 Feared Dead: Is Criminal Negligence Cause Of Canada Disaster? [NSFW VIDEO, REPORT]
The terrifying Lac-Megantic train derailment on Saturday, July 6, caused a massive explosion in the French Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, located 155 miles east of Montreal and just west of the state of Maine. The freight train, which carried 72 oil tankers, rolled from a hill due to alleged brake failure. The derailment triggered a series of blasts that caused five of the tanks to explode one by one. 30 buildings in the area were incinerated.
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The extreme intensity of the blasts made the rescue extremely difficult. Local Fire Chief Denis Lauzon set a 500 feet perimeter surrounding the tankers while water and foam were sprayed to keep the tankers from further overheating and exploding. Five victims are confirmed dead on the day of the incident. Six days later, the toll has grown to 24, with another 26 feared dead.
"This is an unbelievable disaster," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who visited the crash site Sunday. "This is an enormous area, 30 buildings just completely destroyed, for all intents and purposes incinerated. There isn't a family that is not affected by this." According to AP, as many as a third of the Lac-Megantic residents have been forced to evacuate from their home.
A vigil will be held early Saturday to mark one week since the Lac-Megantic train derailment. Family, friends, and loved ones of the missing and the dead will gather at a local high school at 1:15 a.m. Saturday to pay respects to the lost and pray for those still recovering from the disaster. What's more, other vigils will be held in Montreal, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières and other communities near Lac-Mégantic.
While it is uncertain whether Lac-Megantic will recover from the horrifying explosion, the town has taken a step towards normality as businesses reopened on Friday just yards from the Lac-Megantic train derailment. 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes on Saturday and have since returned home while about 200 evacuees currently remain at a shelter. Authorities have placed a fence, 2.5 meters high, to surround the disaster site from the town's view. The blackened area of rubble was once the downtown core of restaurants, bars, and shops.
The Lac-Megantic train derailment is Canada's deadliest accident in recent history. Officials on Thursday confirmed that 93-year-old Elianne Parenteau was killed in the disaster. Parenteau is the first identified victim.
Forensic investigators continue to search for bodies and evidence to understand the crash. Authorities say they are focusing their probe on whether operator Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, Inc. followed proper safety rules. In fact, police have not ruled out a criminal investigation, specifically criminal negligence.
The behavior of MMA Rail has been "absolutely deplorable," claimed to Quebec Premier Pauline Marois. According to MMA Rail's Ed Burkhardt, it is possible that the train conductor may not have engaged enough handbrakes to hold the crude oil freight train up a gentle slope.
"After what we saw in Lac-Mégantic... I mean, I don't want to panic the Canadian people, but if you live near a railroad track in this country can you really sleep peacefully at night?" asked Quebec steelworkers' union Syndicat des Métallos deputy director Guy Farrell.
"For us, the important thing is that the government must tighten regulations now," urged Farrell.
The Quebec government will package $60 million in aid for the community of 6,000.
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