L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec -- Fire
raged through a seniors' residence in eastern Quebec
on Thursday morning, killing three people and leaving about 30 unaccounted for.
Officials fear the death toll will climb and said firefighters
couldn't save people they saw and heard.
Acting mayor Ginette Caron said many
of those unaccounted for were confined to wheelchairs and walkers, noting that
only five residents in the center were fully autonomous. She said some had
The massive fire in the 52-unit complex broke out around 12:30 a.m. ET
in L'Isle-Verte, a small town of 1,500 people about 140 miles
northeast of Quebec City.
"About 31 people are on the list
of people that Quebec police are
looking for. This is very bad news because they have challenges moving
around," said Francois Lapointe, the member of Parliament for the area.
"We're down to hoping that some
of those 31 people were not there. ...
The volunteer firefighters did
everything they could. They basically couldn't save some people they could hear
or see," he said.
Lapointe said one man could see his
mother on a balcony but could not rescue her.
He said it will take about two or
three hours for officials to go through what's left of the gutted building.
Initial reports said 20 residents had
been transported to safety, but it was unclear just how many residents were
missing in the inferno. Quebec
Provincial police Sgt. Ann Mathieu urged people who have any information on
people considered missing to call police.
Mario Michaud, who lives across the
street from the building, said he witnessed the unfolding drama shortly after
"I got up to go to the toilet and
I saw smoke," Michaud told local newspaper Info Dimanche.
had started on the second floor. I woke up my girlfriend and called 911. I saw
the firefighters and they got to
work. A woman on the second floor was
shouting and she went out on to the balcony. Her son went to get a ladder but
he couldn't get to her. She burned to death."
Local chief firefighter Yvon Charron called it "a night from
At least three people were injured in
the blaze. The extent of their injuries was unclear.
The building was home to more than 50
people and also housed a social agency, a pharmacy and a hair salon.
The center - the Residence du Havre -
opened in 1997. A Quebec Health
Department document updated last July said the three-storey building, with one
elevator, was constructed entirely of wood.
Most residents were older than 75 and
37 of them were older than 85. The building included both single rooms and
apartment-style dwellings. The document also indicates the building was only
partially fitted with a sprinkler system but did have a fire alarm. There were smoke detectors in
every room and in the building itself.
The same document indicates that two
employees tend to work overnight during the week.
departments in the region were called in to help extinguish the blaze, which
completely destroyed the building.
comes just six months after 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train with 72 oil tankers
derailed and exploded in the small community.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
a statement offering his condolences on behalf of the entire country.
In 1969, a nursing home fire in the community of Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec, claimed 54 lives.