Hundreds of survivors from Lac-Mégantic, Que., will be treated to a Paul McCartney concert tonight for free in Quebec City.

Concert organizers offered the tickets to the residents of the devastated town, where two weeks ago a train carrying 7.2 million litres of light crude oil derailed in the centre of town, causing blasts that killed dozens of people.

Hearing music icon Paul McCartney play Tuesday on Quebec City's historic Plains of Abraham is a little more special for Caroline Tremblay than the average rock fan.

Her husband was a big admirer of the former Beatle.

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Paul McCartney returns to Quebec City on Tuesday.

Tremblay's husband, Guy Bolduc, was among the dozens killed when fireballs engulfed the bar where he was performing in downtown Lac-Mégantic.

"He adored Mr. McCartney," Tremblay wrote in a moving letter to promoter 3 E Event, Experience, Emotion, which offered free tickets to the musician's show for Lac-Mégantic survivors.

"You have allowed my children and me to discover the musical universe of this great artist and (a chance to) bathe in music at a party surrounded by our friends."

The free ticket idea was floated to McCartney's team by the promoter at the beginning of last week. The former Beatle's entourage quickly agreed.

Luci Tremblay, director of communications for promoter 3 E, said organizers were touched by Tremblay's message.

"I was almost crying when I read that message this morning," she said. "It was very nice of her to write to us."

1,000 tickets set aside

Quebec provincial police believe 47 people were killed in the July 6 disaster. About 2,000 people were forced to flee the area, although most have been allowed to return home.

Luci Tremblay said 1,000 tickets had been set aside, and about 900 people took up the offer. About 10 buses were also donated in the Lac-Mégantic area to bring them to the show.

"We gave them 1,000 tickets, but in our mind, if 200 persons want to come, or 400 or 600, the important thing for us was they can do it, no problem," said Tremblay.

She said Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche was pleased with the response, because it represents about 10 per cent of the town's population.

Tremblay was also impressed with the interest, given the dire circumstances.

"Some people are preparing funerals, some of them are moving so maybe they're not in the mood to come but what we wanted was those who wanted to come, they can do it."

In her email to the promoter, Bolduc's wife said people in Lac-Mégantic are grateful for the chance to see the singer.

"It's a generous gesture that will give us a little break from the difficult moments," said Caroline Tremblay.

Oil spill numbers:

  • 7.2M litres carried by train.
  • 5.7M litres spilled into the environment.
  • 900,000 litres left inside remaining 9 intact freight cars.
  • 600,000 litres recovered by cleanup crews.

The tickets given to the Lac-Megantic survivors would regularly sell for $99.

On Monday, Quebec’s environment ministry released a new estimate of the amount of light crude oil that spilled after the July 6 derailment.

The ministry stated that a total of 5.7 million litres of oil spilled into the air, water and ground in Lac-Mégantic.

In the first days after the spill, Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet told CBC that about 100,000 litres of oil had spilled into the nearby Chaudière River. 

Only nine of the trains 72 cars were left intact after the explosions. Almost 80 per cent of the oil being carried by the freight cars poured into the environment.

With files from The Canadian Press