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Residents Heading Home In Blasted Quebec Town

A view from above showing some of the destruction in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, after Saturday's train derailment, explosions and the fires that followed.
Mathieu Belanger
Reuters /Landov
A view from above showing some of the destruction in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, after Saturday's train derailment, explosions and the fires that followed.

"A majority of the 2,000 people forced out of their Lac-Mégantic, Que., homes following the massive rail tank-car explosions Saturday morning are being allowed to return home today," CBC News reported Tuesday.

But as that was happening, there was still no word about the fate of dozens of their neighbors. When we left the story Monday evening, officials were saying they had raised the confirmed death toll to 13. But many people were unaccounted for. That's still the case. The CBC writes that, according to police, "some 50 people are missing — a figure that includes the 13 unidentified bodies that have been recovered since the train derailed at about 1 a.m. ET Saturday."

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into why more than 70 tank cars filled with oil rolled into the town and derailed. According to The Montreal Gazette, "The chairman of the company whose train exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic says he is certain it was tampered with."

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

Update at 5:45 p.m. ET. Fifteen People Now Confirmed Dead:

NPR's Jeff Brady confirmed with Quebec police officials that 15 people have been confirmed dead from the accident. This leaves the number of missing at about 35 people, as teams continue searching the area.

A criminal investigation has also been launched but at this point police do not think the accident was an act of terrorism.

Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. "We Could Feel The Heat On Our Faces":

Here & Now spoke with Manon Farmer, who "lives in Lac-Mégantic and was awakened by the explosions, a few blocks from her home, on Saturday overnight. 'I came out of my bed, went to my window and saw my neighbor's house lit like a big huge sunrise,' Farmer said. ... Then, there was another giant boom.' "

Farmer continued:

"We could feel the heat on our faces," she said. "We were told that this cloud came to about 3,000 degrees — can you imagine how hot that is? You could hear all kind of exclamations. And voilà, our beautiful patrimonial — little city — is gone in ashes."

She believes her town will come back:

"Of course, and with pride and everything — it's just like Ground Zero in New York," Farmer said. "People love their community here and it's going to be rebuilt and the trees that are down are going to be replanted, and of course it's going to be done. And as you know, in troubles like this — like take New York, 9/11 — people come together, hearts open up. That's what's so wonderful about it. We become who we really are."

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

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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