14 confirmed dead in Quebec seniors' home fire; 18 still missing
Published Monday, January 27, 2014 8:21AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 27, 2014 4:20PM EST
Police say 14 people are now confirmed dead after last week’s fire at a seniors’ residence in L’Isle-Verte, Que. Eighteen others are still missing.
High winds, poor visibility and frigid temperatures forced rescue crews to temporarily suspend recovery efforts Sunday, but CTV’s Vanessa Lee says authorities are making progress in their efforts to recover the missing bodies.
“The methods that they are using to melt down that ice, they say, is working,” said Lee, speaking from L’Isle-Verte.
It was announced on Monday thatPrime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to attend an official commemorative ceremony in L’Isle-Verte on Saturday, to honour the victims.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made a statement in the House of Commons ahead of question period on Monday, offering his condolences and congratulating first responders for their relentless work.
“We offer our condolences to all of the families who have lost a loved one,” Mulcair said. “We are with you in our hearts.”
Members of Parliament also observed a moment of silence for the victims of the fire.
Crews on the sceneare working with special machinery typically used to de-ice ships in order to melt through the 60-centimetre-thick layers of ice that have developed in some areas.
About 1,000 people joined Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Roch Bernier, co-owner of the seniors’ residence, in mourning at special mass that was held at a local church on Sunday afternoon.
Bernier received a standing ovation after speaking for the first time since the fire. He told mourners he came to offer his condolences and to show solidarity with the community of about 1,500 people.
"We call them our residents, but we can go further than that: they are part of our family," he said inside Eglise de La Decollation-de-Saint-Jean-Baptiste. "I have to tell you that it has been very hard for us deal with all of this."
At a news conference following the service, L'Isle-Verte Mayor Ursule Theriault thanked the first responders. She said the tone of the memorial service was difficult to describe in words.
"I'm someone that smiles very naturally, but this afternoon I just couldn't," she said, speaking in French.
Before attending the solemn mass, Marois visited the small municipality to show her support for families of the dead and missing, and called the fire an “unacceptable” tragedy. She said her government is prepared to take the necessary measures to increase safety in seniors’ residences.
“We’re evaluating what’s been done so far and what we can do in the future,” Marois said.
With files from The Canadian Press