The bells of the Ste-Agnès church tolled once again Sunday morning, calling Lac-Mégantic residents to the first Sunday mass in the iconic church since last week's disaster.
As many as 50 people are believed to be dead following the explosions of a derailed train last Saturday.
Police confirmed at a Saturday press conference that five more bodies were found in the ruins of Lac-Mégantic, bringing the official death toll to 33 people. Seventeen people are still missing and presumed dead.
A couple hundred residents made their way up the church's steps for the 9 a.m. service Sunday. The church re-opened its doors Friday to the residents of Lac-Mégantic after the police relocated barricades to Villeneuve street just below the church grounds.
Priest Steve Lemay, who lost his home in the explosion along with some 200 residents, was part of the service.
But young priest Charles Vallières, 31, of the Marie-Jeunesse family, a group of young Catholic priests,took over.
"I only got here yesterday, but I've seen a lot of good Samaritans. Steve is a dedicated pastor who gives his life to Lac-Megantic,"said Vallières during his sermon.
"I just started so it's always a little nerve-racking,but I'm happy to be here," said the priest who was ordained a month ago.
It was a special service for residents like Daniel Pelchat, 49, who are not regular churchgoers but came for the occasion to mourn lost community members.
"I don't usually go to mass on Sundays but today was important," he said.
"My friend Raymond Lafontaine lost his son last Saturday. It felt good to shake each others' hands and be all together for each other."
"It's very important for citizens to come together and support each other," said Lemay.
Nine of the 33 killed have been identified by investigators, and authorities have released the names of eight victims so far:
- Éliane Parenteau-Boulanger, 93
- Frédéric Boutin, 19
- Kathy Clusiault, 24
- Élodie Turcotte, 18
- Yannick Bouchard, 36
- Karine Lafontaine, 35
- Maxime Dubois, 27
- Mélissa Roy, 29
The name of the ninth person identified is to be released on Monday.
Sûreté du Québec Inspector Michel Forget said that the SQ’s investigation of the disaster scene will take several more weeks at least, and that the search of the Musi-Café bar is underway. The popular bar was just 30 feet away from the disaster after 73 cars of crude oil derailed and exploded just after 1 a.m. last Saturday.
When asked to describe the scene, Insp. Forget said: "Think of going through a two-storey building brick-by-brick in addition to dealing with all of the liquid and intense heat and this was a popular gathering place."
"You have to understand that officers are mothers and fathers before police," Insp. Forget said.
The mayor of Lac-Mégantic, Colette Roy-Laroche, also announced today that those still displaced by the disaster will be relocated from the local high school which has been serving as a shelter.
"They will be relocated to better places. Places with real beds," Ms. Roy-Laroche said.
The high school will continue to offer food, psychological and social services to those affected.