Photo essay: Revisiting Lac-Mégantic, one year later

Lac-Mégantic, then and now: Images revisiting scenes of devastation capture a gradual return to normalcy

Last July, a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Que., and exploded, horrifically. The disaster killed 47 people and left a pile of twisted, burning metal in what remained of the town’s core. Martin Patriquin revisited the tragedy a year on and spoke to townspeople who are struggling to recover. “We aren’t enraged. Only terrorists get enraged. We are builders,” said Raymond Lafontaine, who lost three family members in the disaster and runs a local construction business.

Photographer Will Lew went to Lac-Mégantic, a town slowly recovering from the aftermath of Canada’s deadliest rail disaster. His photos revisiting scenes of devastation capture a gradual return to normalcy.

Drag the button in the centre of each image to see more of the two scenes.



The slow pace of government compensation means few businesses have reopened. Then: Lucas Oleniuk/Getty Images. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Downtown Lac-Mégantic is still under construction, full of burned-out buildings. Then: Christinne Muschi/Reuters. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Hundreds of citizens have protested the return of oil tankers to Lac-Mégantic. Then: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



‘What’s unfortunate is the sense of resignation,’ says Rémi Tremblay, editor of the town’s newspaper. Then: Photograph by David Charron. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Police guard an area still occupied by unexploded tanker cars from the train derailment. Then: Photograph by Joel Lemay. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



The flames long extinguished, the downtown is now a fenced-off purgatory of construction equipment and burned-out buildings. Then: Photograph by Joel Lemay. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



The fiery derailment was the worst railway accident in Canada in nearly 150 years. Then: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Forty-seven people died and more than 30 buildings in the town’s centre were destroyed, including the library and archives. Then: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Residents stand beneath a cross on a hill overlooking Lac-Mégantic while firefighters battle the blazes in the town below. Then: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Emergency personnel walk along Laval Street, at the end of which most of the explosions occurred. Then: Photograph by David Charron. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



‘It’s hard having to stand there and watch your town burn,’ says Lac-Mégantic fire chief Denis Lauzon, recalling the fateful day. Then: The Canadian Press/HO. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.



Residents watch thick smoke billow from the site of the train explosions on July 6, 2013. Then: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images. Now: Photograph by Will Lew.


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