The official death toll from a fire that tore through an old people’s home in Canada has climbed to 17 as emergency workers, some on their hands and knees, continued to comb through the ice-covered rubble.
Quebec police said 15 people were still missing, presumed dead, after the sixth day of the excruciating recovery effort. “We will keep going until all 32 people have been found,” Lieutenant Michel Brunet said.
Four people have been formally identified by the coroner’s office.
Weather has been a major hurdle, forcing crews to take regular breaks to warm up from the bone-chilling cold.
Special machines also had to be brought in to melt thick ice that coated the ruins after the fire at the Residence du Havre home in L’isle-Verte. Police have had to approach the rubble carefully, not just to avoid harming any bodies within the structure but also to preserve evidence that may allow investigators to determine a cause for the blaze.
About 65% of the site has been examined but Lt Brunet said it was difficult to say how long it will take to complete the effort because large hunks of debris have to be removed carefully.
The delicacy of the effort was reflected in the large construction shovels that have been brought in which carefully scratched at the ground to remove rubble.
Smaller tools such as rakes, brooms and spades were also being used by the workers, who also include pathologists from the Quebec coroner’s office.
Police spokeswoman Ann Mathieu said the searches were progressing well and about 50 people were combing the rubble of the building in teams. Health and social services said six people remained in hospital.
The public has responded to requests for any photos or videos of the fire last week and experts will begin sifting through them in the coming days, police said