Search fruitless in Ontario for victims in mall collapse

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ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario -- At least one person was feared dead and another trapped inside the rubble of a roof collapse at mall in northern Ontario, authorities said Sunday.

More than 24 hours after the collapse, rescue workers have been unable to reach the victims because the structure is too unstable.

But images taken with a camera show a hand and foot in the dusty debris, said Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore.

Fire officials heard tapping Sunday morning in another part of the rubble, but nothing had been heard for hours. They said they also tried to reach that person by drilling through a wall, but found the structure too unsafe to risk entering far enough inside.

Police have a list of nine people missing since the collapse Saturday at Algo Centre Mall in Elliott Lake, but the names are being crossed off as members of the community account for their loved ones. At least 22 people suffered minor injuries.

Stephan Powell of Toronto Fire Services said 40 members of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team were removing pieces of the structure in an effort to extricate anyone who might have been trapped.

A portion of the roof that served as a parking area crumbled down two floors into an area near the food court, exposing metal and concrete supports.

The collapse left behind a gaping hole 39 feet by 79 feet, downed hydro lines and triggered a gas leak.

Ontario Provincial Police said 22 people were taken to hospital but none were seriously hurt.

Joe Drazil, a Zellers store employee, said several cars appeared to have fallen through the hole near some escalators. "You can see the roof with the cars hanging inside," he said. "Everybody was cleared from the whole mall. After that, there was numerous police and emergency vehicles coming from all over."

Shopper Jean-Marc Hayward was having coffee when the roof collapsed about 20 feet from him. He said a big hunk of concrete tumbled down through two floors and that it sounded like an explosion.

"It was a big loud crash. It didn't just go down one floor it went down two floors," he said.

Mr. Hayward and others have said the mall roof has leaked water for some time. There have long been buckets and tarps around the mall to collect leaking water, he said.

"It's obvious there has been a lot of damage in the structure because of the water," he said. "A couple of years ago they said they fixed all the leaks in the mall, but they didn't. You could tell every time it rained."

Mr. Powell could not confirm if rescue officials had been briefed about the water issue.The two-level mall is approximately 200,000 square feet. It houses a grocery store, restaurants, a number of retail outlets, a hotel and the constituency office for a member of the provincial Parliament.


First Published June 25, 2012 12:00 AM


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