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Americas

Railway company ‘can’t pay’ for Quebec train disaster

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-31

The railway company involved in a devastating train accident that killed 47 people and spilled crude oil in and around the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic said Tuesday that it did not have the funds to pay the $8 million clean-up bill.

The rail company involved in a devastating train crash that killed 47 people in the town of Lac Megantic said Tuesday that it could not pay for cleaning up the crude oil that spilled in the town and surrounding lakes and rivers.

“"We're unable to fund that out of our own cash," said Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, of the CAN $8 million (€5.8 million) clean-up bill from Lac-Megantic.

"The company would like to get the cash flowing under our insurance policy and continue to address the cleanup following the derailment, the environmental issues, and then to start addressing claims made by local residents, businesses and so on," he told a New York radio station.

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet invoked powers under a provincial law on Monday to force the rail and fuel companies involved in the railway disaster to take financial responsibility for fixing environmental damage.

The order names Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd (MMA), a unit of Chicago-based Rail World Inc, and Montreal, Maine & Atlantique Canada Cie as well as fuel-services companies World Fuel Services Corp and Western Petroleum Company.

"The citizens of Quebec are not the ones that will have to pay for this," Blanchet said in a televised news conference.

A train operated by MMA carrying light crude derailed on July 6 in the small, tourist town of Lac Megantic, exploding into a giant wall of fire next to a busy nightclub, killing 47 people and flattening the town's core.

Some 5.7 million liters of oil leaked from the rail cars, according to estimates by the Quebec government. Some of that has already been removed but Blanchet insisted the rehabilitation work must continue nonstop and without cost to taxpayers.

The town of Lac Megantic's legal representatives wrote previously to MMA to request it handle the cleanup job.

The train, which was hauling 72 tanker cars, was operated by a single engineer and had been parked for the night on a main line uphill from Lac Megantic. After the engineer left, it started rolling downhill, derailed and exploded.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board are expected to release an update later this week on their probe of the accident, but they have said they believe the brakes applied on the train were insufficient.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-31

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