Lac-Megantic holds vigils today for victims of train disaster

Local church open to anyone who wants to reflect on the tragedy

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. – A Quebec town mourning dozens of residents will come together today to voice its grief.

Two public events are planned in Lac-Megantic, where a train carrying crude oil came off the tracks and exploded nearly a week ago.

Authorities fear that 50 people were killed.

While only 24 bodies have been found, a first victim was publicly identified yesterday: 93-year-old Eliane Parenteau, who lived near the tracks.

The local church will be open this morning for anyone wanting to pray, lay flowers or otherwise reflect on the tragedy.

And a candlelight vigil is scheduled for 8 p.m. at a high school that has doubled as a shelter for those who lost their homes in the disaster.

Similar events are planned in Montreal and other Quebec municipalities.

With most residents being allowed to return home, only about 10 per cent of the 2,000 who were evacuated will still be shut out of their houses as of the weekend.

As for families that have lost loved ones, team of more than 30 counsellors has arrived in town to help residents in community centres, fire stations and even public parks.

One grief counsellor warned in an interview yesterday that, without a body to bury, many families will struggle to move past the denial stage of loss. He said the uncertainty can keep families in limbo for years.

Karine Blanchette, who knows several people feared dead in the derailment, says the vigils will show those affected that they are not alone.

“People will see that the whole province is with us,” she says.