LAC-MÉGANTIC, Que. – The federal government has announced a $60-million fund to help Lac-Mégantic, Que., amid increasing pressure to make a specific aid commitment following a train disaster more than two weeks ago.
The announcement from local MP Christian Paradis, the international development minister, came after the Harper government faced some criticism for having failed to provide any details beyond its promise to help the community.
The provincial government, for its part, had moved immediately with its own $60-million fund and provided emergency aid that saw stranded people swiftly receive $1,000 cheques.
As he announced an equal contribution from the federal government Monday, Paradis applauded the work from the province to provide immediate assistance.
From the new federal fund, $25 million will go to the provincial government for emergency aid and $35 million will go to longer-term economic-recovery projects for the region.
Paradis reiterated that the feds are committed to helping.
“The people of Mégantic can count on the support of the federal government,” Paradis said. “All Canadians feel shock and sadness over this tragedy.”
Paradis holds a close connection to the July 6 disaster.
The local MP happened to be having lunch at a pub just hours before it became the epicentre of the blast.
Many of the suspected 47 victims of the derailment were at the Musi-Cafe bar, whose patrons have described seeing a wall of fire engulf the area near the tracks.
Forty-two bodies have been found, although none have been recovered since the weekend and five of the suspected victims remain missing
“Sadly, we have not found any more victims in the rubble,” said provincial police Insp. Michel Forget.
“I can tell you that police are animated by a very strong desire to find them.”
Twenty-eight of the victims’ bodies have been identified.
Crews have gotten better access to the immediate crash area with the help of a crane that lifted two train wagons. Black boxes from the locomotives have been sent to the United States for analysis, Forget said Monday.
The provincial government released an environmental-impact statement Monday estimating that 5.7 million litres of oil spilled into the air, water and soil during the disaster.
The statement also said 9 million litres of oily water were recovered and that a full cleanup of the water was expected.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will reconvene for an emergency meeting in Ottawa.
The Opposition NDP had pushed for MPs to meet to discuss regulatory recommendations that had been made over the years.
Last week, the federal Transportation Safety Board requested two immediate changes for train travel, despite its investigation into the Lac-Mégantic tragedy still only being in its early stages.
The agency sent Transport Canada two safety advisories asking for a pair of changes — the first being that dangerous goods should not be left unattended on a main track, and also that rail equipment be properly secured.
Fifty non-government organizations from across the country have also issued a call for changes, and are distributing an online petition.
They want a ban on shipping oil in older DOT-111A tanker cars; an end to one-person train crews; and a sweeping review, with public hearings, of all oil-transportation methods, including pipelines.