Bell tolls 50 times for Quebec dead in train disaster

Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:30pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Phil Wahba

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (Reuters) - A week after the heart of the Quebec village of Lac-Megantic was devastated in a fireball in one of the worst train accidents in Canadian history, the St. Agnes church bell rang 50 times on Saturday, once for each person believed to have died.

Eight seconds intervened between each bell, then a minute of silence, after which 12 white doves were released from the steps of the 92-year-old church in an emotional midday ceremony.

A group of mourners held hands to form a long human chain, couples embraced and many cried quietly, all heads down.

"It's complete desolation for all. Church is where we come to find peace. There are no words to describe this region's suffering," said Genevieve, a woman from nearby St-Romain who knew three of the dead and did not want to give her full name.

The runaway train of 72 cars carrying crude oil had been parked uphill in the nearby town of Nantes. It started moving toward Lac-Megantic when its brakes failed, building speed and eventually jumping the tracks in the heart of town near the packed Musi-Cafe bar, shortly after 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) last Saturday.

The accident is likely to spur changes in Canadian railway regulations. It has already launched a debate about the merits of sending crude by rail, which is increasingly being used because of capacity limits on pipelines and political opposition to them despite their better safety record.

Police said on Saturday that 33 bodies had now been recovered, up from 28 - although they have only been able to identify nine of them so far. They are searching for the bodies of the estimated 17 missing.

The St. Agnes church has been opened up to let people leave mementoes, photos and flowers.   Continued...

People in Gatineau, Quebec, collect candles at the conclusion of a vigil for the victims of the fatal train disaster in Lac-Megantic, July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie