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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lac-Mégantic Resident: ‘I Could Feel The Heat On My Cheeks’

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Thirteen people are now confirmed dead and another 40 still missing as investigators begin to sift through the rubble that was once downtown Lac-Mégantic.

Firefighters continue to secure more of the city core every hour, but are holding out on giving access to the entire city until they’ve finished dousing the few remaining volatile tankers, sitting in a crater on a main street.

“And voilà, our beautiful patrimonial — little city — is gone in ashes.”
– Manon Farmer

All this after the massive explosion of a derailed train carrying oil over the weekend.

More than 1,500 people are still displaced and investigators looking for the cause of a fiery oil train derailment are zeroing in on whether an earlier blaze on the same train may have set off a chain of events that led to the explosions.

Concern is also mounting about the spilled oil, which is seeping into local waterways, including one river that flows from Lake Mégantic to the St. Lawrence River.

Manon Farmer lives in Lac-Mégantic and was awakened by the explosions, a few blocks from her home, on Saturday overnight.

Lac-Mégantic resident Manon Farmer took this photo after being woken by the explosions. (Manon Farmer)

Lac-Mégantic resident Manon Farmer took this photo after being woken by the explosions. (Manon Farmer)

“I came out of my bed, went to my window and saw my neighbor’s house lit like a big huge sunrise,” Farmer told Here & Now. “We did not know it was a train. Nobody knew what happened. All we could see was a huge cloud, like everybody saw on TV.”

Then, there was another giant boom.

“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. ”

But it will be rebuilt, Farmer said.

“Of course, and with pride and everything — it’s just like Ground Zero in New York,” she 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.”

Guest:

  • Manon Farmer, resident of Lac-Mégantic.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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