Quebec retirement home fire toll rises

AP

The painstaking search through the iced-over remains of a burned-out Quebec retirement home was set to resume Saturday morning, with friends and relatives of some 30 missing people awaiting word. Eight people have been confirmed dead.

As crews used steam Friday to melt thick sheets of ice coating the rubble, Marc-Henri Saindon waited for his mother’s body to be recovered. Marie-Jeanne Gagnon, five months shy of her 100th birthday, had just moved to the home on New Year’s Eve.

The cause of the massive blaze that swept through the three-story building early Thursday remained under investigation. Search teams of police, firefighters and coroners slowly picked their way through, working in shifts amid afternoon temperatures of around minus 16 C.

The confirmed number of dead climbed to eight with the discovery of three more bodies. The tragedy cast such a pall over the village of 1,500 that psychologists were sent door to door.

Witnesses told horrific tales of people trapped and killed by the flames. Many of the 50 or so residents were over 85 and used wheelchairs or walkers. Some had Alzheimer’s.