NEWS

Lac-Mégantic toll rises to 42

07/18/2013 03:00 EDT | Updated 09/17/2013 05:12 EDT
Disaster workers found the remains of four more victims on Thursday in the red-zone in Lac-Mégantic, Que., where a train carrying crude oil derailed and set off a series of explosions more than a week ago.

Quebec provincial police Insp. Michel Forget confirmed the official death toll is 42, with eight more people unaccounted for and presumed to be dead.

In a press conference on Thursday, Lac-Mégantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said she had received condolences from U.S. President Barack Obama and thanked him for his support.

"I think the people of Lac-Mégantic also appreciate knowing that the American president has sent us his sympathies and his moral support,” said Roy-Laroche. "I appreciate it a lot."

The mayor also thanked the population of Quebec for their support, in particular a benefit held in Montreal at Le National theatre on Wednesday night.

Salvation Army asks for food donations

Donations have been flowing in to help those affected by the train disaster, but some immediate needs are falling short.

The Salvation Army is appealing for food donations to help feed more than 100 firefighters and municipal workers working inside the worst-hit area of town.

The Salvation Army has been preparing more than 300 daily meals and snacks for the workers inside the area that has remained off limits to the public for more than a week.

The charity is asking companies that sell bulk food to donate staples like fruit and vegetables, cold cuts, bread and butter and desserts.

The charity is already expecting a donation of $3,000 worth of meat from a Montreal wholesaler.

The Red Cross says about $5.6 million in donations has come in so far to help its disaster relief effort in Lac-Mégantic.

The organization set up an emergency shelter inside a local high school in the hours following the derailment and resulting explosions. It took in more than 500 displaced residents. Most of those residents have been able to return home, except for a few with homes inside the so-called red zone.

The donations are also being used for short-term recovery assistance for funeral and relocations costs, inventory replacement and study grants for those who were forced out of their homes or who had small businesses that were directly affected.

The Red Cross expects to update its donation total later today to include money gathered by Montreal firefighters during their fundraising drive on Wednesday.

The town of Lac-Mégantic also set up its own relief fund — the Fond L’Avenir Lac Mégantic — with more long-term goals in mind.

Money raised by the fund will be distributed to citizens, commercial establishments and industries in order to help rebuild the community and its devastated downtown core.

"We will raise whatever we can," said Isabelle Gagnon, spokeswoman for the town of Lac-Mégantic.

Any companies interested in donating food to the Salvation Army can contact their Montreal office.

Individuals looking to help are asked to contribute money rather than food.

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