This fourth of July weekend was a tough travel weekend for many. There has been almost non-stop coverage of the Asiana Airlines flight that crash landed at SFO yesterday. The news of jumbo-jet crash landing at a major airport is shocking news, and no doubt deserves significant coverage. With two dead and hundreds injured, many around the world have watched as information about flight 214 has flooded the airwaves, internet and all forms of media. The crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 wasn’t the only transportation tragedy this weekend.
On Saturday a train derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec. I have a good friend who lives in the small town, and while he and his family are okay, the town has suffered great damage leaving some areas completely demolished. The news coverage of this tragedy has taken a backseat to the airplane crash. As of this afternoon, firefighters were still fighting flames on some of the 72 rail cars and two more bodies were recovered raising the death toll to five. Town officials have reported that approximately 40 people are still missing.
There were multiple blasts over a span of hours Saturday in the town of around 6,000, which is about 155 miles east of Montreal and about 10 miles west of the United States/Maine border. The once idyllic town has been left devastated by this disaster.
The train was operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway and the CEO of the railway’s parent company said, “the train had been parked uphill of Lac-Megantic. The tanker cars then sped downhill into the town before derailing in town.”
The tanker cars exploded in an area of town filled with bars, restaurants and homes. At 1 am there were likely many locals and tourists in those bars and residents have reported that they were home when the explosions occurred. Myrian Marotte, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Red Cross in Lac-Megantic, said there are about 2,000 evacuees and said 163 stayed at their operations center overnight.
I remember the town I visited in 2004 and 2009 as being quaint and picturesque, the pictures that are emerging today show a very different scene. It’s unreal to imagine how much damage this train derailment has caused.
This is a significant tragedy impacting thousands of souls and also deserves ample attention. The crash of a Boeing 777 is hard to imagine and the deaths of passengers on-board is horrific; the lives lost in Lac-Megantic and devastation of a small town is equally sad and significant.