Sunday 25 February 2018

Bodies of 30 OAPs feared trapped in icy rubble

Rescue workers at the destroyed home for the elderly in Quebec where five people are confirmed dead. AP
Rescue workers at the destroyed home for the elderly in Quebec where five people are confirmed dead. AP

Rob Gillies Quebec

Investigators were trying to pick through the icy rubble of a charred home for the elderly in Quebec to try to identify more victims of a fire that killed at least five and left about 30 missing.

The residence now resembles a macabre frozen palace, with sheets of ice and thick icicles covering the destroyed structure.

Canada's prime minister said there was little doubt the death toll would climb in the eastern Quebec town of L'Isle-Verte, where sub-freezing temperatures have hampered the recovery effort.

Police said three search teams of police, firefighters and coroners were going through wreckage in shifts and using steam to melt the ice.

The cause of Thursday's early morning blaze remains unclear.

Witnesses told horrific tales of seeing people die in the blaze. Most of the residents probably never had a chance to escape – many of them were over 85 and had little or no mobility.

Pascal Fillion said he saw someone use a ladder to attempt to rescue a man cornered on his third-floor balcony. The man was crying out for help before he fell to the ground engulfed in flames.

A Quebec Health Department document indicates the residence, which has operated since 1997, had only a partial sprinkler system. The facility expanded around 2002 and the sprinklers in the new part of the building triggered the alarm.

Quebec Minister of Social Services Veronique Hivon said many of the volunteer firefighters from the small town of about 1,500 had relatives in the residence. She said psychologists would be knocking on doors throughout the community to offer help. Ms Hivon said the residence met code and had a proper evacuation plan.

The massive fire in the three-storey building erupted at about 12.30am Thursday and quickly spread.

The fire broke out in -20C temperatures, causing equipment to freeze.

Irish Independent

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