Canada train blast: Vigils held as toll reaches 33

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Vigil in Lac-Megantic, Canada (13 July 2013)

Events have been held in Canada to mark one week since the train disaster in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

The church bells in Lac-Megantic tolled 50 times, once for each person believed killed. Other ceremonies took place across the country.

It comes as officials say a further five bodies had been found in the ruins of the town, bringing the total number known to have died to 33.

At least 17 people are missing and presumed dead.

Many of the victims have yet to be identified.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of blast, which destroyed a large area of the town and forced some 2,000 residents to flee their homes.

The town centre is being treated as a crime scene.

On Friday evening, a small candlelight vigil was held at Lac-Megantic's Saint Agnes church, near the site of the crash.

Dominique Bordeleau, a teacher who went to the vigil, said photographs of two of her former students had been placed among the tributes to the dead and missing.

"It really sinks in what happened when you see these pictures. It reaches deep into you. It's devastating," she told Reuters.

Image caption,
The site of the crash is being treated as a crime scene

Officials had cancelled a larger planned event, saying they did not have the capacity to handle a large crowd.

At midday on Saturday, people gathered on the steps of the church, where the bells were tolled 50 times, once for each of the people believed to have died.

The Montreal Gazette said events were planned in more than 50 towns and cities across the Quebec region.

In Montreal, about 200 people attended a ceremony at Notre Dame Basilica.

"I've come here this evening to support those who are mourning down there," one woman, Nathalie Bolduc, told AFP news agency.

"The loss of human life down there, it's crazy. Just crazy."

Victim fund

The train was carrying oil from the Bakken oil region in the US state of North Dakota to a refinery on the east coast of Canada. It was carrying 72 cars of crude oil.

It was parked shortly before midnight on Friday in the town of Nantes about seven miles (11km) away.

It later rolled downhill, gathering speed until it derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded.

Media caption,

Lac-Megantic resident Adrien Aubert filmed the aftermath of the blast

At least 30 buildings were destroyed by the fireball. Only one victims has so far been identified by name - 93-year-old Elianne Parenteau.

The authorities have asked the relatives of those still missing to provide DNA samples, but have also warned that some of the bodies may have been burnt to ashes in the huge fire, which raged for a day after the initial explosion.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visited Lac-Megantic on Thursday, and criticised the rail company's response to the crash.

She also announced a C$60m (£38m; $57m) fund to help victims and rebuild the town.

The chairman of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Edward Buckhardt, revealed on Wednesday that an engineer who was in charge of driving the train had been suspended without pay, after being accused of failing to set a series of hand brakes.

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