Quebec town mourns victims of fuel-tanker train disaster

Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:18pm EDT
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By Christinne Muschi

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners filled the streets of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Saturday, as the families of the 47 people killed in North America's worst railway disaster in two decades attended a memorial service at a local church.

A trumpeter on the street played Ave Maria to the mourners as they gathered outside St Agnes church to watch the service on a massive screen.

"It's still difficult," said Chantal Guay, a local resident who was among the crowd outside church. "We're all family in Lac-Megantic, everyone knows each other. I knew them all - all the missing and all the dead."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and politicians from all levels of government attended the memorial service.

Three weeks ago a runaway train hauling 72 crude oil tanker cars careened into the center of town, derailed and then exploded into a series of fireballs, destroying dozens of buildings, including apartments and a popular downtown bar.

Although police say they consider Lac-Megantic's core to be a crime scene, prosecutors have not yet laid any charges in connection with the July 6 train crash.

Inside the packed Roman Catholic church, makeshift shrines for the victims lined the altar, overflowing with pictures, hand-written notes and flowers. Family members bowed their heads as the names of all 47 victims were read out.

"Brothers and sisters, what happened? What did happen here in our town of Lac-Megantic," said Steve Lemay, the community's young parish priest. "An unspeakable disaster dragging us all into indescribable suffering. Our town, its heart devastated, has lost its children."   Continued...

Mourners walk the perimeter of the red zone as rescue workers line the streets following a memorial service to honour the victims of the train derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi