Quebec premier vows 'never again' at site of senior residence fire

Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:31pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec (Reuters) - Quebec Premier Pauline Marois on Sunday said a fatal fire in a seniors' residence was "unacceptable" but stopped short of saying her government would make sprinklers mandatory in homes for the elderly.

Authorities fear 32 people died early on Thursday when fire ripped through the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte, a picturesque town of 1,500 people some 230 km (140 miles) northeast of Quebec City in eastern Canada.

"These are events we very much don't want to happen, and so we have to do everything possible to make sure they don't happen again," Marois told reporters after arriving in town.

She later joined grieving residents at a private memorial service at the town's simple stone church.

Roch Bernier, co-owner of the residence, greeted the congregation somberly and was given a standing ovation, an emotional show of support in this tight-knit community.

"I come to you with a heart full of emotion and at the same time enormous suffering," he told the mourners, saying he considered the residents to be part of his family.

Bernier also called on people not to look for blame.

"Let us find out what we can to do to help each other," he said before returning to his seat, barely able to choke back tears.   Continued...

Emergency workers look on while digging through the remains of the senior residence Residence du Havre in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger