Canada police sift ruins after fatal old age home fire

Canada police sift ruins after fatal old age home fire

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Smoke rises from the burnt remains of a retirement home in L'Isle-Verte, Canada on Jan 23.

L'ISLE-VERTE, Canada - Police spent Thursday night sifting through the frozen ruins of a wooden, three-story residence for the elderly that burned down in the Eastern Canadian province of Quebec, killing at least three people and leaving 30 more missing.

Fanned by high winds, the early morning fire engulfed an older section of the Residence du Havre in the small community of L'Isle-Verte on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River about 230 km (140 miles) northeast of Quebec City.

The building only had a partial sprinkler system, according to a document filed by the residence. Acting Mayor Ginette Caron said many of the residents had used wheel chairs or walkers, while some had Alzheimer's disease.

Firemen battled for five hours in temperatures as low as minus 22 Celsius (minus 7.6 Fahrenheit) to extinguish the blaze.

The number of dead and missing remained unchanged all day.

"The problem we face now is the weather conditions. To fight the fire, water had to be used, and that water has frozen,"Quebec police spokesman Guy Lapointe told a briefing.

Police intend to work carefully, both to stay safe in the extremely difficult conditions and to ensure that the remains of potential victims remain intact, he added.

"In the next few hours, if all goes well, we'll begin to work on scene and, if the lighting we've brought in allows it, the objective is to work through the night," said Lapointe.

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