L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec — Investigators were trying to pick through the icy rubble of a charred seniors' facility in Quebec on Friday to try to identify more victims of a fire that killed at least five and left about 30 missing. The home for the elderly now resembles a macabre frozen palace, with sheets of ice and thick icicles covering the destroyed structure.
Canada's prime minister said there was little doubt the death toll would climb in the eastern Quebec town of L'Isle-Verte, where sub-freezing temperatures have hampered the recovery effort. The cause of Thursday's early morning blaze remains unclear.
Witnesses told horrific tales of seeing people die in the blaze. Most of the residents probably never had a chance to escape: Many of them were over 85, had little or no mobility and used wheelchairs or walkers.
Pascal Fillion said he saw someone use a ladder to attempt to rescue a man cornered on his third-floor balcony. The man was crying out for help before he fell to the ground engulfed in flames.
A Quebec Health Department document indicates the residence, which has operated since 1997, had only a partial sprinkler system. The facility expanded around 2002 and the sprinklers in the new part of the building triggered the alarm.