June 29, 2012
Body recovered from collapsed Elliot Lake, Ontario mall
ELLIOT LAKE, Ont.
Efforts to reach possible victims trapped inside a caved-in mall in northern Ontario took a grim turn Wednesday morning as rescue workers recovered a body from the rubble.
Officials in Elliot Lake confirmed remains had been pulled from the collapsed Algo Centre Mall but said the body has not been identified.
Rescue workers quickly returned to scouring the wreckage, but officials warned that chances of finding anyone alive are increasingly slim.
“If there’s anybody alive in there, our people are trying their best to find them,’’ Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis told reporters. “You see folks have gotten together and they’re trying to do their best. But at the same time, sometimes the best just isn’t good enough, and that’s just a very, very unfortunate reality.”
Mayor Rick Hamilton called Wednesday’s discovery “a deep, deep tragedy,’’ one that affects not just those close to the victim but the entire community.
“It’s with heavy hearts and the deepest condolences on behalf of every citizen in Elliot Lake that we offer our condolences to the families of the person who has been removed today,’’ he said.
“It’s indeed a tragic time for the citizens of Elliot Lake.’’
Residents have kept watch over the mall since Saturday’s collapse, anxiously awaiting news of loved ones still unaccounted for.
Many gathered there Wednesday expressed frustration about the uncertainty surrounding the operation and demanded to know more about the victim and the ongoing efforts.
Dan Hefkey, the Ontario Commissioner of Community Safety, said rescue workers are likely to recover more bodies.
“Right now, we have one person. We are sending our technicians back in. As I speak, they’re back in. And there are likely to be more,’’ he said.
Television footage showed some rescue workers taking off their hard hats and bowing their heads as the stretcher with the body was carried out.
The mall’s roof collapsed Saturday (June 23) afternoon, killing at least one person and officials have confirmed that at least two people were trapped inside.
When asked if there’s still hope to find any survivors, Hefkey said, “There’s always hope. And that’s what we’re trying to work at.’’
Meanwhile, about a dozen people remain unaccounted for.
Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore said officers are keeping a list of people reported missing, but said the numbers change frequently as community members make contact with their loved ones. Once search and rescue has determined there are no more people inside, the investigation will get turned over to the Ministry of Labour.
“There are going to be questions about why it collapsed, and those questions have to be answered,’’ said Hefkey.
Cranes have been toiling overnight to pull debris and clear a path for crews and search dogs to go into the wreckage.
The risky operation was initially called off on Monday over concern that a precariously balanced escalator might collapse on rescue workers. But an outpouring of concern from the community prompted Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to secure more resources for the rescue mission.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2012
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