Quebec sends $60M in aid to Lac-Megantic as scope of disaster comes into focus

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Quebec sends $60M in aid to Lac-Megantic as scope of disaster comes into focus

The scope of what happened in Lac-Megantic is getting worse. The body count is getting higher; the number of people missing is getting larger. An investigation has begun that could end in criminal charges.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois announced at a press conference on Wednesday the province would shift some $60 million of government funding to recovery efforts in the devastated Lac-Megantic community.

Pauline Marois told reporters that the funding would include immediate money for those affected by the disaster, assistance to the city to manage the housing crisis, pay for emergency shelters and to rebuild the community.

She added, according to the Canadian Press, that it was only a start to the assistance the province would be giving the devastated town.

The community of 6,000 was devastated late last week when a runaway train loaded with crude oil barreled into the city and derailed, causing an explosion that ripped apart a large piece of the city core.

The number of people confirmed dead in the blast has recently been increased to 15. About 45 others are still missing.

[ Related: 60 people now considered missing after Quebec train derailment ]

The province confirmed on Wednesday that the fire caused by the explosion has finally been doused. A total of 40 homes and businesses destroyed.

The cause of the blast — which is still the focus of a Transportation Safety Board investigation — could be considered a criminal matter.

Quebec provincial police Insp. Michel Forget announced on Tuesday that a criminal investigation was underway and the blast zone was now considered a crime scene. He told reporters that police have "discovered elements" that called for a criminal probe.

This announcement came just one day before the chairman of the train company, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, was expected to visit the Lac-Megantic community. The Canadian Press reports that Edward Burkhardt previously said he feared he would need a bullet-proof vest to visit the upset community.

He has previously said the company had proof their train had been tampered with before it rolled out of a train yard several kilometres outside of town, gathered speed and crashed.

[ More Brew: Lac-Megantic residents angry over loss of life and history ]

According to the National Post, the Transportation Safety Board will continue its own investigation, which will include looking into safety measures used along the stretch of track and whether the type of tanker car used to transport the crude oil offered sufficient protection.

With relief efforts just ramping up, the community has a long way to go to recover from the devastation. Further support will be necessary.

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