Firefighters melt ice to retrieve Quebec bodies

30 people still missing after fire in retirement home

Firefighters search through the rubble after a fire destroyed a retirement home in Quebec, killing five people. Photograph: AP

Firefighters search through the rubble after a fire destroyed a retirement home in Quebec, killing five people. Photograph: AP

Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 01:00

Canadian police and firefighters used steam machines yesterday to melt thick ice encasing the rubble of a wooden retirement home which was destroyed by a fire in rural Quebec a day before.

Police said five people had 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 230km northeast of Quebec City.

A police official said severely cold weather was making working conditions difficult and he did not know how soon police would be able to retrieve bodies and update the death toll.

“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 police in the eastern province of Quebec.

The ice formed after firefighters, working in temperatures that dropped as low as minus 22 degrees, spent many hours dousing the building with water. In some cases the resulting ice is 30-60cm thick.

“The method that we’re using now with regards to melting the ice is we’re using steam,” Lapointe said.

“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 teams could only work in 45-minute shifts.

– (Reuters)