TOPICS > Nation

Fiery Train Crash Will Leave Big Impact on the Small Canadian Community

July 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
In Canada, a fiery oil tanker train derailment has so far claimed the lives of 13 people, while 37 people remain missing, some of whom may never be found. Hari Sreenivasan talks to Sophie Tremblay of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, about how the accident may prompt debate about the safety of oil pipelines.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For the latest on the accident, we’re joined by Sophie Tremblay, a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. She was at the scene over the weekend and joins me now from Montreal.

So, Sophie, my first question is, there was just a press conference a little while ago. Are investigators any closer to determining the cause?

SOPHIE TREMBLAY, Canadian Broadcasting Company: The cause? No.

They are — they did — the Transport Safety Board of Canada did recover the black box. They are going to be holding a press conference tomorrow morning, but at this point there are still competing theories, hypotheses about what happened.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And what about some of the numbers of the missing? We have heard reports that they might not be identified ever.

SOPHIE TREMBLAY: That is the truth.

Some people are comparing it to 9/11, where some of the bodies were just, you know, vaporized, and they won’t be able to recover some of them. At this point, they found eight more bodies today. That brings the total count to 13. And they say right now they have 50 on their missing list. That means 37 victims possibly still to be found or not found.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this is obviously a small community. What happens when up to 50 people in one community are directly impacted? What about the ripple effects of all those people that you met over the weekend?

SOPHIE TREMBLAY: Well, if you do the math, you know, 60 people would be one percent of the 6,000 people population. And that is just completely devastating to them. Everyone knows someone who is missing, and the town is just completely devastated right now by this loss. It’s really — it would have a big impact for them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the structures, also the physical infrastructure? There were a number of buildings were decimated in this, right?

SOPHIE TREMBLAY: Yes, 30 buildings.

And Lac-Megantic is a beautiful, beautiful part of Quebec. It’s this small town on this beautiful, pristine lake. The scenery is just stunning, spectacular. Very quiet. It’s a historical town built around these train tracks. And people are just — they’re devastated by the loss of these historical buildings, their library, their commerce, their businesses that they have spent all of their lives in that downtown portion.

So that is a big loss for them. Most people right now are most worried about their friends and family who are still missing. And they haven’t been able to see the devastation yet exactly of that red zone. So that loss is still …

HARI SREENIVASAN: And let’s talk slightly in the bigger picture.

You know, we’re having conversations around the country about transporting fuel across the Keystone pipeline in the United States. You have pipelines. You have rail transports of oil and fuel across Canada. Has this restarted that type of a conversation across the country there?

SOPHIE TREMBLAY: Oh, yes. This has definitely ignited this debate.

Even right here in Montreal, we’re starting to have resident groups, city councillors, you know, asking these questions about the railroads that run right through our city, because Canadian cities have — a lot of them have been built around these railroad tracks. And so people are very concerned about that.

Also, on the — just the renewable energy, too, some people are saying we can’t have these trains, we can’t have these pipelines going right next to where people are living because, as we see, disaster has struck and people here are very concerned about that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sophie Tremblay, a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Company, thanks so much for joining us.