More residents return to devastated Canadian town, more bodies found

Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:51pm EDT
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By Richard Valdmanis and Julie Gordon

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (Reuters) - Provincial and municipal leaders lashed out on Thursday at the company whose runaway train leveled the center of a tiny Quebec town as more residents returned home and officials opened up a site for tributes to the 50 people who likely died.

Police said they had found an additional four bodies in the wreckage of the town center, bringing the total to 24. Another 26 people are missing and presumed dead.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, whose government is making a C$60 million ($58 million) aid package available to the tiny community of Lac-Megantic, said the behavior of the company, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, and its president had been "absolutely deplorable."

Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said company bosses should have arrived much sooner.

"I am truly shocked that he didn't get in touch with me as quickly as possible," Roy-Laroche said of railroad chairman Ed Burkhardt.

She said she had not met with Burkhardt, who toured Lac-Megantic on Wednesday, apologized for the accident and said he felt "absolutely rotten about it."

The driverless MMA train was hauling 72 tanker cars of crude oil when it smashed into Lac-Megantic early on Saturday and exploded in a wall of fire that flattened dozens of buildings, including a packed bar.

The train was part of a vast expansion in rail shipments of crude oil throughout North America as oil output soars in Canada and North Dakota and pipelines run out of space.   Continued...

A fireman walks through the wreckage of the downtown core in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi