Quebec seniors' home fire: Officials using steam to melt icy rubble
Friday, January 24, 2014, 4:28 PM -
Police say it's going to be difficult to recover victims following a deadly fire at a seniors' residence early Thursday morning in I'Isle-Verte, Quebec, about 240 km northeast of Quebec City.
Water used by firefighters has left the burned ruins coated in ice up to 30 cm thick, prompting officials to use steam to melt the icy rubble.
"The difficulty we have is that we want to be able to find victims but we want to respect the integrity of these potential victims," said Quebec provincial police Lt. Guy Lapointe at a news conference.
"So the steam allows us to melt the ice ... without damaging any element that might allow us to go forward in the investigation."
Five people are dead and 30 are still missing after the fire broke out.
Temperatures at the time hovered around the -20°C, feeling even colder with the wind chill.
Strong wind gusts helped fan the flames.
According to The Canadian Press, police say breaking the ice to find victims might damage possible evidence.
The building was home to more than 50 people, many with limited mobility. The building also also housed a social agency, a pharmacy and a hair salon.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences Thursday.
"We can retain a bit of hope, but the reality seems to be that there is a considerable loss of life," Mr. Harper said in French.
"I know this will be the subject of expressions of sadness and sympathy all across the country and I know this community and its families will be in everybody’s thoughts and prayers in the next few days."
Officials found that newer parts of the three-storey building had sprinklers, but older parts did not.
The cause of the blaze is still unclear.
With files from The Canadian Press