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50 Likely Died In Quebec Train Disaster, Officials Say

At a school in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the town's people have been waiting for word about their friends and family members.
Christinne Muschi
Reuters /Landov
At a school in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the town's people have been waiting for word about their friends and family members.

Police in Quebec are not holding out hope that any of the people still missing after Saturday's train derailment and explosions in the town of Lac-Mégantic are alive.

With 20 bodies found so far and an additional 30 people still unaccounted for, that means the death toll is expected to be around 50. Authorities are telling the families of the missing to prepare for the worst.

CBC News writes that:

" 'We informed them of the potential loss of their loved ones,' said Quebec police inspector Michel Forget, who came to [a Wednesday] afternoon news briefing from a meeting with families of the dead and unaccounted. 'You have to understand that it's a very emotional moment.' "

In Lac-Mégantic on Wednesday, "jeers and icy stares" greeted the head of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the Canadian Press reports. More than 70 tanker cars loaded with oil detached from an MM&A train parked outside Lac-Mégantic and then rolled into the town, derailed and exploded.

The railroad CEO, Edward Burkhardt, said there are questions about whether the engineer properly applied the brakes before leaving the parked train. "We think he applied some hand brakes, but the question is, did he apply enough of them?" Burkhardt said, according to Canadian Press. "He said he applied 11 hand brakes. We think that's not true. Initially we believed him, but now we don't."

As we reported Wednesday, authorities are looking into whether foul play or negligence played roles in the disaster.

Thursday on Morning Edition, Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio reported from Lac-Mégantic. Many in the town are furious, he said. But Maude Faucher, whose sister Mary Noelle is among the missing, told Brian she doesn't have time at this point to be angry.

"Not really, because my sadness is too high," Faucher said. "My sister left two sons. Their father died in October, so they're orphaned now. So I'm going to have to take care of them, so I'm going to have to be strong."

Lac-Mégantic is about 150 miles east of Montreal, near the border with Maine.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

On 'Morning Edition': Brian Mann reports from Quebec

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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