FARMINGTON, Maine — Selectmen voted Tuesday to establish a relief fund for the town’s sister city of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where a runaway train derailed and exploded last weekend, killing at least 20 people and destroying about 30 buildings.
The board voted to kick off the drive with $500 from its special projects fund, Town Manager Richard Davis said Wednesday.
“They have lost so much. They are going to have many needs,” he said. Among the losses are the community’s library and roads, he said.
About 30 buildings in the downtown business area were destroyed when five cars of a 73-car train derailed early Saturday. As of Wednesday, 20 people were confirmed dead and dozens of others were missing, according to the Associated Press.
Farmington and Lac-Megantic became sister cities in 1991, an initiative by the Farmington Chamber of Commerce to build commerce and friendship, Davis said.
It was also an opportunity for Farmington residents to learn French and Lac-Megantic residents to learn English, according to Sun Journal archives.
The proclamation was signed in June 1991 in Quebec and July in Farmington. A plaque in Meetinghouse Park in Farmington marks the proclamation.
It seems that a lot of people from Farmington go to Lac-Megantic, Davis said.
Lac-Megantic has a population of about 6,000 and is about a 90-minute drive from Farmington, which has about 7,500 residents.
The Lac-Megantic Relief Fund will be set up at TD Bank in Farmington, Davis said. People can either mail checks to any branch or visit a branch, he said, so long as Lac-Megantic is on the check.
“We are hoping that people will open their hearts and wallets to the extent that they can,” he said. “What if it happened to Farmington, God forbid?”
Davis plans to make contacts with managers of other municipalities to inform them of the fund and hopes it becomes a statewide effort.
Another opportunity for people to donate is through the Canadian Red Cross at http://www.redcross.ca/donate/donate-online/donate-to-the-fund-explosion-lac-megantic?lang=en-ca, Davis said.