A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence
du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec.
Canadian police and firefighters have used steam machines
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.
A police official said severely cold weather was making
working conditions difficult, and he did not know how soon
police would be able to 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 22 Celsius, spent many hours dousing
the building with water. In some cases the resulting ice is
30 to 60 cm 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
The cold was so intense that teams of police, firefighters
and coroner's office officials could only work in 45-minute
Police have not managed to track down all the residents who
might have been in the building, 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 (local time).