News / Americas

Firefighters Melt Ice To Retrieve Bodies After Quebec Blaze

A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. (Reuters)
A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. (Reuters)
Reuters
Canadian police and firefighters used steam machines on Friday to melt thick ice encasing the corpses of elderly people who died in a massive blaze that destroyed a wooden retirement residence in rural Quebec the day before.

Police said that five people died and about 30 were unaccounted for after the early morning blaze ripped through the Residence du Havre in the small community of L'Isle-Verte, about 230 km northeast of Quebec City.

Police said the missing might not all be dead since it was still unclear how many of the home's residents were in the building when the fire started.

The disaster has already raised demands that the Quebec government require homes for the elderly to be equipped with sprinkler systems, following the lead of neighboring Ontario. Only part of the Isle-Verte residence had sprinklers.

“If the investigation shows that we need sprinklers or new rules, the government will act and bring in the changes for sure,” said Jean-Thomas Grantham, spokesman for Quebec Labor and Social Solidarity Minister Agnes Maltais.

The ice formed as firefighters, working in temperatures that dropped as low as minus 22 Celsius (minus 8 Fahrenheit), doused the building with water for hours. In some cases the resulting ice is one or two feet (30 to 60 cm) thick.

“So many things could happen that we can't plan on - the cold is extreme, the equipment could freeze, we could run into other issues,” said Guy Lapointe, spokesman for the Quebec provincial police force.

“The steam is being used for us to be able to advance at the scene, being able to preserve the integrity of potential victims.”

The cold was so intense on Friday that teams of police, firefighters and coroner's office officials could only work in 45-minute shifts.

Police have not managed to track down all the residents who might have been in the building at the time of the fire, and Lapointe said it is possible that nonresidents had been in the building.

Officials said they do not know what caused the fire and Lapointe appealed to local residents to provide any videos or pictures they may have taken after the fire started shortly after Wednesday midnight.

Sprinkler regulations

CARP, an association representing the elderly in Canada, has long demanded that all such facilities install sprinklers, but said cost concerns have overridden safety needs.

“We've had these kinds of fires over the last three decades, inquest after inquest making these recommendations. Here we are today and we still don't have ... a national standard that's enforced and fully funded,” said CARP spokeswoman Susan Eng.

An investigation by La Presse newspaper published on Friday found that 1,052 of 1,953 private seniors' residences in Quebec have no sprinklers at all, and 204 of them, including the L'Isle-Verte home, had only partial sprinkler systems.

“It's clear that the best way to protect our seniors in these residences is to have sprinklers,” said Andre St-Hilaire of the Quebec Association of Fire Chiefs.

Canada has a patchwork of regulations for homes for the elderly that can vary from province to province. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, made sprinklers mandatory at the beginning of the year in all homes for seniors, allowing a phase-in period for existing homes.

The United States now requires all long-term care facilities to have sprinkler systems if they serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Attack on Colombian Police Kills 7

Defense ministry vows to 'maintain and intensify' operations against armed groups, drug traffickers following the attack
More

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More