The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 01/26/2014 6:01 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 01/26/2014 11:01 AM
MONTREAL - Major disasters that have struck at the heart of two small Quebec communities in the space of about seven months have some striking similarities.
There are also some equally glaring differences.
Lac-Megantic and L'Isle-Verte will be forever remembered as unsuspecting communities left reeling after devastating tragedies that have generated debate on different safety issues.
Last summer's train derailment in Lac-Megantic, near the U.S. border, killed 47 people and triggered a heated discussion on rail safety and the transportation of dangerous materials.
The official death toll, as of Saturday, in the fire at the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte stood at 10, although another 22 people are missing and presumed dead.
The blaze has sparked debate on the issue of sprinklers in seniors' residences after it was revealed that only part of the facility was equipped with them.
There is also a common theme in the way information has been provided in the aftermath of the respective disasters.
In both cases, authorities have tended to hold two or three daily media briefings to update the number of fatalities and those missing and to reveal the identities of the deceased.
Even some of the people providing those details are the same.
Lt. Guy Lapointe of Quebec provincial police was a constant figure in Lac-Megantic and has resumed that role in L'Isle-Verte, skilfully answering questions in French and English and urging reporters not to get too carried away with various theories.
Then there's Genevieve Guilbault, an official with the coroner's office whose duties include officially releasing the names of the deceased. She became a daily staple in Lac-Megantic and seems likely to be just as prominent in L'Isle-Verte.
Another player in both communities has been provincial police Lt. Michel Brunet, who spelled Lapointe on news-conference duty in Lac-Megantic and surfaced again on Saturday.
Asked about the two events, Brunet mentioned one of the most obvious differences — the weather.
"In Lac-Megantic, the bodies were completely burned and that was in the summer time and the weather was approximately 40 degrees," he said Saturday.
"And here (in L'Isle-Verte), with the wind factor, it's minus 40 degrees."
Another difference is the geographical area affected.
A large swath of downtown Lac-Megantic was wiped out after the explosions that followed the train derailment. Rebuilding will likely take years.
In contrast, the destruction in L'Isle-Verte was generally contained to in and around the location of the seniors' residence.
"It's a lot smaller," Brunet said. "That's the difference — and the number of people who died."
Brunet had been a policeman for 36 years before Lac-Megantic and said it was the worst scene he, law-enforcement colleagues and firefighters had ever seen.
"We weren't expecting another one like this but seven months later we are here and again many people died in a scene a little bit like Megantic.
"It's something we don't like to see."
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Ukrainian-Canadians march in Ottawa
Boer War anniversary skirted sensitive facts
2 Lev Tahor kids stopped in Calgary: reports
Tory leadership a tough sell in Newfoundland
Cdn photographer killed in Syria air strike
Russia in Ukraine could cause Arctic problems
Clock winds down on Canada's Afghan mission
Sister says Canadian journalist killed in Syria
Vietnam may have found missing jet's door
John Barlow gets Conservative nod in Macleod
Peladeau to run for Parti Quebecois
Harper heads to South Korea to ink trade pact
Stats on B.C.'s freedom-of-information system
A sample of non-responsive info requests
One-fifth of B.C. info requests come up empty