Search resumes for fire victims
L’ISLE-VERTE, Que.—Investigators are back on the job today sifting through icy rubble to try to locate more victims of a fire that destroyed a seniors’ residence in Quebec.
Provincial police said three teams are working in rotation because of the freezing temperatures in L’Isles-Verte.
Police told a news conference this morning that the official death toll still stands at five but that another 30 people are listed as missing.
The cause of yesterday’s early-morning blaze is unclear and Lt. Guy Lapointe said nothing is being ruled out.
Most of the residents probably never had a chance—many of them were over age 85, had little or no mobility, and were confined to wheelchairs or walkers.
A common theme in conversations in the town of 1,500 was the parallel between the fire and the train derailment which devastated Lac-Megantic last summer.
Both tragedies occurred shortly after midnight and left the two communities reeling.
Witnesses told horrific tales yesterday of seeing people die in the blaze.
Pascal Fillion said he saw an attempt to use a ladder to rescue a man cornered on his third-floor balcony.
The man was screaming and crying out for help before he fell to the ground engulfed by the fire.
A Quebec Health Department document indicates the residence, which has operated since 1997, only had a partial sprinkler system.
The facility expanded around 2002 and the sprinklers in the new part of the building triggered the alarm.
Fire Chief Yvan Charron said his colleagues were able to get to the third of the building that remained standing while the rest was inaccessible.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Pauline Marois were among a raft of politicians to offer their condolences.