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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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Ten bodies recovered in freezing search of Quebec nursing home fire

Equipment usually used to de-ice ships has been brought in to aid the search for the dozens still missing.

SEARCH CREWS HAVE so far recovered 10 bodies from the site of a massive fire at a Quebec seniors’ home.

The efforts have been hampered by ice-covered rubble, frigid temperatures and swirling snow

The cause of Thursday’s blaze remains under investigation. Media reports suggest that the fire began in the room of a resident who was smoking a cigarette, but police said that was just one possibility among many.

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Emergency workers resume the search. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

Quebec police said poor visibility, blowing snow and frigid conditions forced authorities to temporarily suspend searches early Sunday — the fourth day of the excruciating search. Police later resumed the search, a day after the remains of only two more people were pulled from the rubble.

“It makes the work quite difficult. We had to make our rotations shorter because it was very cold out there,” Quebec Police Lt. Guy Lapointe said.

The owner of the residence has offered his condolences to the families of the 32 people feared dead.

Roch Bernier received a standing ovation from the more than 1,000 people in attendance at a remembrance Mass yesterday.

“What you’re living inside, we are living it inside as well,” he told the gathering. “We will try to find the strength to get through this.”

His “tremendous courage” was praised by Mayor Ursule Theriault.

He’s been deeply affected by this, but he spoke to us, and I think that’s what marked me the most today.

On Saturday, search teams brought in equipment normally used to de-ice ships that pushes out very hot air to melt down ice that police said was 60 centimeters (2 feet) thick in certain places.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois cut short a trip to Europe to visit L’Isle-Verte on Sunday, where she met with the mayor and went to the scene of Thursday’s fire.

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Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visits the site of the fatal fire. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

The premier told a news conference that everything is being done to provide support for those who survived the fire and to give closure to those still awaiting word on their loved ones. She called the blaze “unacceptable” and said the provincial government is prepared to bring about any changes that are necessary to increase safety in senior residences.

“First of all, we will wait for the inquiry because now, we don’t have the results of this evaluation and examination,” Marois said. “After that, we will see if there are some new rules to adopt.”

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Emergency workers searching the site. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

Marois said a working committee has been in place for one year studying a number of issues, including whether mandatory sprinklers are necessary in these types of buildings. Quebec’s Department of Social Services said the Residence du Havre was up to code and had a proper evacuation plan. A Quebec Health Department document indicates the home, which has operated since 1997, had only a partial sprinkler system. The home expanded around 2002, and the sprinklers in the new part of the building triggered the alarm.

“If they recommend to us to change the rules, to change the laws and implement (mandatory) sprinklers, we will do that,” Marois said

A total of 10 bodies have been recovered as of Sunday evening. The coroner’s office formally identified a third victim on Sunday — Louis-Philippe Roy, 89. About 20 elderly residents survived the fire.

Background: Thirty people missing after fire at home for the elderly >

Read: Grim search begins for victims >

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Associated Press

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