Ten people are now confirmed to have died following a fire at a nursing home for the elderly in L’Isle Verte in Quebec. The fire occurred at approximately 0530hrs (GMT) on Thursday 23rd January and thirty people are missing. Most of the residents were over 75 years old, and 37 were over 85 years old.
Several fire departments were called to the town, 140 miles east of Quebec City, to help extinguish the fire, which was fanned by strong winds. Emergency crews were able to save about 20 of the 52 residents, at least 13 of who were treated at hospital.
With temperatures at -21C, search teams have brought new equipment to assist in the searching of the premises. Designed mainly for de-icing ships the tools produce steam to melt the ice coating the remains of the building.
Police and fire fighters searched the debris in 45-minute shifts to minimise exposure to the cold.
Police are examining the theory the fire was started by a cigarette, however they are keen to stress that it was one of a number of possibilities.
The ruins of the Residence du Havre have collapsed and are frozen over with a thick layer of ice from fire hoses. The ice was as thick as 60cm in places.
About 20 elderly residents survived the fire and the Red Cross has raised around 200,000 Canadian dollars to provide them with clothes, hearing aids, wheelchairs and other urgent supplies.
The worst ever fire in a Canadian nursing home occurred in Notre-Dame-du-Lac in Quebec, in 1969 when 54 people died.