Lac-Mégantic takes the first steps back to normal

The Musi-Café reopens as questions about cleanup continue

In a matter of minutes on a Friday night, Lac-Mégantic residents lost their friends, family, businesses and homes. Now a full month after a train explosion rocked the picturesque Quebec town of 6,000, locals are trying to regain a sense of normalcy, and realizing just how long it will take to untangle the mess left behind.

Last weekend, the Musi-Café reopened for the summer. The popular gathering spot had been at the epicentre of the explosion; most who died that night were inside when it was destroyed.

The bar’s owner has created a temporary 150-seat “Musi-Café d’été” for the summer located under a tent in a parking lot on the edge of town.

Downtown, however, questions linger over who will pay for the multi-million-dollar cleanup. The Quebec government ordered both Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) Railway and World Fuel Services, a logistics firm, to help foot the bill, but World Fuel argues it bears no responsibility for the disaster, while MMA’s chairman Ed Burkhardt says insurance money is caught up in legal technicalities and the company doesn’t have cash to pay out of its own pocket. The railway company laid off a third of its 75-person Quebec workforce in July.

Debate also continues over the safety of transporting oil by rail. New Transport Canada rules mean there must now be at least two crew members working on trains carrying dangerous goods, and that those trains must not be left unattended on main tracks.

Some have also called for older railcars to be upgraded; however, the rail industry claims that could cost more than $1 billion.

Back in Lac-Mégantic, any train coming through town will be contentious. The tragedy claimed 47 lives, though just 42 bodies were found. As the town prepared to bury its dead last week, police called off the search for the remaining bodies.

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