5 dead, 30 missing after Quebec old age home blaze

2014-01-24 10:27
Fire-fighters work at the scene of a senior residence fire in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (File, AP)

Fire-fighters work at the scene of a senior residence fire in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Quebec - A fire that raged through a seniors' home in eastern Quebec trapped residents dependent on wheelchairs and walkers, leaving five died and about 30 missing. Canada's prime minister said there was little doubt the death toll would climb.

Officials said fire-fighters saw and heard people in the building that they were unable to save.

Many of those unaccounted for in the fire early on Thursday were confined to wheelchairs and walkers and only five residents in the centre were fully autonomous, said Ginette Caron, acting mayor of the small town of L'Isle-Verte, about 225km northeast of Quebec City.

She said some had Alzheimer's disease.

The massive fire in the three-story building broke out around 12:30 and raged through the night. Fire-fighters arrived within eight minutes of getting the alarm and several fire departments in the region were called in to help.

But they were unable to carry out a complete evacuation because of the intensity of the fire. About 20 residents were transported to safety.

"It was a total fire,"L'Iles-Verte fire chief Yvan Charron said.

Rescuers felt helpless

Pascal Fillion, who lives near the seniors' home, said he ran outside to find a group of locals and fire-fighters already at the scene, trying everything to save the panicked people inside.

For the most part, he said, rescuers felt helpless against a fast-moving blaze with smoke so thick it was nearly impossible to approach the building.

"People tried to do whatever they could, but the fire was so intense that there wasn't much that could be done," he said. "I saw people crying, I saw people collapse because they were watching those people burn."

The fire broke out in -20°C temperatures, causing equipment to freeze, Charron said.

As morning dawned and the fire was brought under control, the burned section of the facility resembled a macabre ice palace, with sheets of ice and thick icicles covering the structure.

The search for the missing was still hampered on Thursday night by the cold and thick ice and the fact that the building has collapsed, said Quebec Provincial police Lieutenant Guy Lapointe. Lapointe said late on Thursday that the search for those missing will regroup at daylight.

"We can keep some hope for those unaccounted for, but there's very little doubt that the loss of life is considerable," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

Wood construction

Retired police officer Pierre Filion, who had a cousin and an aunt living in the residence and who lives nearby, said the tragedy had shaken the tightly knit community of 1 500 people.

"It's going to take a long time to start living normally," said Filion whose missing relatives are both in their 70s.

Outside the building, Jacques Berube,  aged 70, was getting ready to hear the worst about his 99-year-old mother, who is blind but still mobile.

"I went near the building; the corner where her room is burned," he said. "I'll just have to wait and see. I don't like it. But I don't have any choice. It's just reality."

Parts of the Residence du Havre, which opened in 1997, had sprinklers, while others didn't.

Charron chief said sprinklers did go off, triggering the fire alarm and allowing fire-fighters to gain access to about one-third of the building.

Mario Michaud, who lives across the street from the building, said he witnessed the unfolding drama shortly after midnight.

"The fire had started on the second floor. I woke up my girlfriend and called 911. I saw the fire-fighters and they got to work. A woman on the second floor was shouting and she went out on to the balcony. Her son went to get a ladder but he couldn't get to her. She burned to death," Michaud told local newspaper Info Dimanche.

At least three people were injured in the blaze. The extent of their injuries was unclear.

The building was home to more than 50 people and also housed a social agency, a pharmacy and a hair salon.

A Quebec Health Department document updated last July said the building, with one elevator, was constructed entirely of wood.

Most residents were older than 75 and 37 of them were older than 85. The building included both single rooms and apartment-style dwellings. The document also indicates the building was only partially fitted with a sprinkler system but did have a fire alarm. There were smoke detectors in every room and in the building itself.

The fire comes just six months after 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train with 72 oil tankers derailed and exploded in the small community.

In 1969, a nursing home fire in the community of Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec, claimed 54 lives.

- AP

Read more on:    canada  |  fire
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.