Seven more Lac-Megantic victims ID'd as death toll hits 28
Published Friday, July 12, 2013 6:05AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 12, 2013 10:04PM EDT
Residents of Lac-Megantic, Que. marked a week since the deadly train derailment and explosion with a candlelit vigil Friday as seven more victims were identified.
Although town officials urged residents to mourn privately at home while investigators continue to search for bodies, clusters of people gathered on the steps of a local church Friday evening.
They held candles, hugged and spoke quietly as police officers looked on.
The death toll rose to 28 Friday as police found more bodies in the rubble of the downtown core. Twenty-two people are still missing and presumed dead.
The coroner’s office said it will post all the victims’ names on its website 24 hours after their families have been notified. So far, authorities have publicly identified only one person: 93-year-old Elianne Parenteau, who lived alone near the train tracks.
- Scroll to bottom for information about donating to a Red Cross relief fund
The church opened its doors Friday for anyone wanting to pray, lay flowers or meditate on the loss the community of 6,000 has suffered.
"I'm sure people need this -- to reflect together, try to comfort each other, try to find something to live for," Gaetane Labonte, who lives in the nearby community of Stratford, told The Canadian Press as she headed into the church.
The community appears to be starting to come to grips with the enormity of the loss.
There's been a dramatic shift in the language being used by police as officials update the public on the tallies of those dead or missing. Police are now regularly cautioning people that those who are missing are considered dead.
Identification has been slow because in many cases, it's believed very little is left of those killed in the powerful explosions and massive fire.
A team of about 30 counsellors have arrived in the town to meet with those who have lost loved ones in the disaster, but warned that for those whose family members have not been found, it could prove difficult to put the loss behind them.
Richard Custeau, whose brother Real Custeau has been missing since the explosion, said Real loved music, came from a large family and was always willing to lend a helping hand to those who needed it.
Real lived adjacent to the Musi-Cafe, a popular downtown bar that was destroyed in the explosion. He has not been listed as dead, but Richard said he has little hope his brother will be found alive.
"He was a good guy, we will miss him a lot here," Richard told Canada AM. "This morning, I had my coffee in my hand and I tried to learn how to live without him. It's not easy … I will have to pass by his house day after day, and it will be never the same as before."
Most residents have been now allowed to return to their homes; roughly 2,000 people were originally evacuated. Only about 10 per cent of those displaced still are not allowed home -- mostly those whose homes are located in the "red zone," close to the epicenter of the blast.
The deadly explosion occurred around 1 a.m. last Saturday after the train came loose in Nantes, Que., about 13 kilometres away. It rolled downhill, gathering speed before finally derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic.
The train was carrying 72 tanker cars filled with crude oil destined for Saint John, N.B.
The Red Cross is taking donations to help the residents of Lac-Megantic. Those interested can visit the Canadian Red Cross website, call 1-800-418-1111, or send cash or a cheque to:
To make a donation by cheque or cash, please send your donation made payable to The Canadian Red Cross by mailing your donation to:
Canadian Red Cross
6 place du Commerce
Verdun (Quebec) H3E 1P4
If mailing a donation, it should be marked for the Lac-Mégantic Support fund.
With files from Andy Johnson