Even funerals on hold in blast-ravaged Quebec town

Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:59pm EDT
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By Phil Wahba

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (Reuters) - A small Quebec town devastated by the deadliest North American rail crash in more than 20 years faces a slow and painful return to a more normal way of life, with even the funerals of the dozens of victims likely to be delayed by weeks or months.

About 50 people are believed to have died when a runaway train with 72 oil tanker cars crashed and exploded in the center of the Quebec lakeside town just over a week ago, although not all the bodies have yet been recovered, and only 11 have so far been identified.

"We're waiting for them to find her," local businessman Real Breton said of his daughter, Genevieve, an aspiring singer who was inside Lac-Megantic's popular Musi-Cafe when the train barreled into town and burst into flames. "It's terribly painful. You can't even have a funeral."

The coroner has not yet released any of the badly burned bodies to their grieving families.

"We have bodies and parts of bodies in various states, so there are some in worse condition than others," spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault told Reuters.

Guilbault said the painstaking process of identifying the victims was going better than expected and she was "encouraged rather than discouraged" that all the remains would eventually be identified.

But the coroner cannot release bodies as quickly as would normally be the case, because the remains are part of a still-open investigation. "It is impossible to know how long the delays will be," she said.

STILL CLOSED OFF   Continued...

A memorial is pictured inside Sainte-Agnes church in Lac Megantic, July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger