DCN ARCHIVES

June 25, 2012

Rescue efforts continue after roof collapses at Elliot Lake, Ontario mall

ELLIOT LAKE, ONTARIO

They've heard tapping coming from under the rubble and emergency crews are hoping today to be in a position to rescue any possible survivors of the mall roof collapse in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

But residents of the small northern city are expressing grave concern for the possible fate of those still unaccounted for in the wake of Saturday's tragic events.

Late Sunday night, provincial police said there were still nine names on the unaccounted list.

Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore noted that the number had been fluctuating with some names being taken off the list, and others added.

“The problem with this is there's no precise science, we don't know who was in the mall when it collapsed,”said Jollymore.

Meanwhile, a rescue official said at least two people were trapped in the rubble as crews worked around the clock to stabilize the scene and make it safe enough for search and rescue teams to go in today.

Provincial police said images of the Algo Centre Mall's partially collapsed car park roof showed a hand and a foot in the dusty debris.

The roof came down with a thunderous crash just before 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Heather Richer owns a restaurant in the mall and was at work when it happened.

“I'm hoping everyone's found, but I'm giving up hope on whether they're going to find them alive,”she said Sunday.

Bianka Manning, a teacher from the local French high school V.F.J., said she feared a former high school classmate may be trapped among the wreckage.

Manning said her friend worked at the mall's lottery kiosk, but she didn't know if she was inside the mall when the roof caved in.

Manning and two of her students spent all of Sunday night sitting outside the mall wrapped in blankets, waiting for news.

“She might be alone in there, but she wasn't alone all night,”said Manning, 36. “Somebody was with her — maybe not in there, but we're out here for her.''

Manning said her friend used to come in to the school to do mock interviews for students in civics class.

Several candles were lit in front of the mall early this morning.

“We're the uranium capital, so they say when you're from Elliot Lake, you glow in the dark,”said Manning. “Hopefully someone's glowing in there and they'll find them.''

“Everybody's blaming everybody, but really, who cares? I'm more concerned about who's in there and how are they going to get out of there safely,”she said.

The two-storey centre, which was built in the early '80s, underwent a structural study in May and received a passing grade, said a source with Eastwood Mall Inc., which owns the mall.

Work was being done on the roof before the collapse to prevent leaks, but no “substantial renovations”were underway, the source said.

Some irate city residents, however, insisted the building was much in need of repairs.

“The mall's always had leaks (and) roof damage,”said Jean-Marc Hayward, who was in the mall at the time of the collapse.

The ceiling of the mall always dripped when it rained, he said.

The city — once an Ontario mining hub — is located about 160 kilometres west of Sudbury.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2012

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