Rescue efforts suspended in roof collapse at Canadian mall
ASSOCIATED PRESS June 25, 2012 8:42AM
A woman checks out the damage after a roof collapsed at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Saturday, June 23, 2012. The partial collapse prompted a local state of emergency and a search for anyone who might have been injured in the cave-in. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Cora Richer)
Updated: June 25, 2012 7:36PM
ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario (AP) — The threat of another collapse at a shopping mall in Northern Ontario forced rescue crews to abandon their search for possible survivors despite recent signs of life, officials said Monday, two days after part of the roof collapsed and killed at least one person.
Saturday’s collapse in the middle of a bustling day also left at least one person trapped.
Officials said at least two bodies were still inside the building, including a person who recently showed signs of life and could still be alive.
“That person is still there,” said Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore. “I don’t know the condition of that individual.”
However, the building is “totally unsafe” and could collapse at any time, said Bill Needles, a spokesman from the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team.
Needles earlier confirmed one person had died and said crews used a remote device called the life detector to determine a person was breathing as of 4 a.m. Monday. But he said it was too unsafe to send someone in to rescue the victim or any others who might be trapped.
“Our team is certainly not happy. I’m not happy, nobody’s happy that we have to stop work, but that’s unfortunately the way that we’ve had to end this situation,” Needles said.
Residents questioned how officials could leave the person behind.
Rhonda Bear, the manager of the mall, said the mall’s owners are pleading with officials to continue the search or allowed other trained personnel who are still willing to continue. Bear said the mall’s owners have lawyers who will try for a court injuction against the decision to stop the rescue.
At least 22 people suffered minor injuries in the collapse at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake when a portion of the roof that serves as a parking area crumbled into an area near the mall’s food court.
Jollymore said officers are still trying to determine how many others are missing. A list of names submitted by citizens has been fluctuating dramatically since the accident, he said, adding at least two names have remained constant.
“We do have two names of people who are known to be in the mall,” Jollymore said. “Their names have never disappeared on the list.”
Needles said local officials will resume control of the site, which is under investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labor. Ministry officials will issue an order for at least part of the mall to be demolished, he added.
Needles earlier said the confirmed dead person is the same one whose hand and foot were visible in images captured by a remote camera on Sunday. Needles had said he doesn’t have further information about the dead person because rescuers haven’t retrieved the body and are focused on the other victim.
Two kiosks selling lottery tickets, cigarettes and magazines were located in the area where the roof caved in and were open before the roof collapse, eyewitnesses said.
The collapse left behind a gaping hole which was 12 meters (39 feet) by 24 meters (79 feet). It also downed hydro lines and triggered a gas leak. Mayor Rick Hamilton declared a state of emergency.
Some residents said the building was much in need of repairs and the labor linistry had previously visited the mall because of water leaks. Hamilton, the mayor, declined comment on the leaks.
“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.