Ruins of Quebec seniors' home scoured for clues on fatal blaze

Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:09pm EST
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By Mathieu Belanger

L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec (Reuters) - Canadian investigators sifted painstakingly through the charred ruins of a Quebec seniors' residence on Tuesday, seeking clues on what caused a massive blaze last week that authorities fear killed 32 people.

For the first time since fire destroyed much of the wooden three-story building in the small town of L'Isle-Verte in the Eastern Canadian province of Quebec, media were allowed to take pictures of the work of the investigators from a distance.

Police, firefighters and officials from the coroner's office, their breath billowing out in temperatures of minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit), used rakes, spades and brooms as they looked for evidence.

Some actually sat on the ground in the black debris, raising gentle clouds of ash as they used their hands to examine the remains. One policeman could be seen crouching inside a burned metal door frame that stood in isolation.

Police say around 40 percent of the area has now been cleared of major damage.

In one corner of the site, a special machine that pumps hot air was continuing to melt ice that in some places was 2 feet thick, testament to the amount of water that firefighters used to douse the conflagration.

In other parts of the site blackened furniture, warped bed frames and other wreckage was piled up high.

Police have found 17 bodies and another 15 people remain missing and are presumed dead.   Continued...

Emergency workers dig through the remains at the site of the Residence du Havre in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger