UPDATE: Crews Remove Body From the Site
Efforts to reach possible victims trapped inside a caved-in mall in northern Ontario took a grim turn Wednesday morning as rescue workers recovered a body from the rubble.
Officials in Elliot Lake confirmed remains had been pulled from the collapsed Algo Centre Mall but said the body has not been
Rescue workers quickly returned to scouring the wreckage, but officials warned that chances of finding anyone alive are
"If there's anybody alive in there, our people are trying their best to find them," Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris
Lewis told reporters.
Mayor Rick Hamilton called Wednesday's discovery "a deep, deep tragedy," one that affects not just those close to the victim but the entire community.
"It's with heavy hearts and the deepest condolences on behalf of every citizen in Elliot Lake that we offer our condolences to the families of the person who has been removed today," he said.
"It's indeed a tragic time for the citizens of Elliot Lake."
Television footage showed some rescue workers taking off their hard hats as the stretcher was carried out.
Dan Hefkey, the Ontario Commissioner of Community Safety, said rescue workers are likely to recover more bodies.
"Right now, we have one person. We are sending our technicians back in. As I speak, they're back in. And there are likely to be more," he said.
The mall's roof collapsed Saturday afternoon, killing at least one person and officials have confirmed that at least two people
were trapped inside.
When asked if there's still hope to find any survivors, Hefkey said "There's always hope. And that's what we're trying to work
Meanwhile, about a dozen people remain unaccounted for.
Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore said officers are keeping a list of people reported missing, but said the numbers change frequently as community members make contact with their loved ones.
Once search and rescue has determined there are no more people inside, the investigation will get turned over to the Ministry of Labour.
"There are going to be questions about why it collapsed, and those questions have to be answered," said Hefkey.
Cranes have been toiling overnight to pull debris and clear a path for crews and search dogs to go into the wreckage.
Dozens of people camped out overnight in front of the mall, hoping that search crews would find someone still alive in the rubble.
Rescue efforts continued throughout the early morning hours of Wednesday as a large crane carefully pulled pieces of the partially collapsed mall aside and excavators were used to dig through debris.
Before that, crews were hampered againTuesday night when they tried to reach an unstable escalator through the hole in the roof, but were unable to. At a press conference Wednesday morning, Dan Hefky, Ontario Commissioner of Community Safety said they were successful in removing that escalator.
He added that crews were looking for people but it was too early to tell if there were any signs of life. Clean-up crews were working with surgical precision around the site. Hefky says he feels good about the rescue efforts and that the area in question is almost cleared of debris. The operation was able to clear an area about the size of 10 metres by 25 metres.
As for the plan they have in place, Hefky stated, "The big cranes will continue to work then they will step back. Our structural/civil engineer will do an assessment and at that point, we will bring in our K-9 teams and those teams will then be working on looking for signs of life." He went on to say that the main objective is to keep searching and to be as least destructive as possible.
There is at least one confirmed death according to officials but it's unclear just how many are missing or unaccounted for.
(w files from the Canadian Press)
(Photo courtesy of Moose FM)