Rescue efforts stopped in Canada mall collapse
ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario — The threat of another collapse at a shopping mall in Northern Ontario forced rescue crews to abandon their search for possible survivors despite signs of life, officials said Monday, two days after part of the roof caved in and killed at least one person.
Rescuers determined someone in the debris was breathing as of 4 a.m. Monday, but the building is “totally unsafe” and could collapse at any time, said Bill Needles, a spokesman from the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team.
Rhonda Bear, the mall’s manager, said the mall’s owners are pleading with officials to continue the search or allowed other trained personnel who are willing to continue. Bear said the mall’s owners have lawyers who will try for a court injunction against the decision to stop the rescue.
Residents of the former mining hub questioned how officials could leave the person behind, saying abandoning trapped comrades would be unthinkable in miners’ culture.
“Rescue missions never end, save our families, save our friends,” chanted dozens of protesters outside city hall. Some suggested that volunteer mine workers should take up the rescue effort themselves.
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. He said the dead person is the same one whose hand and foot were visible in images captured by a remote camera on Sunday.
“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.
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.
Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy 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, but 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.
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).
Some residents said the building was much in need of repairs, and officials from the Ontario Ministry of Labour had previously visited the mall because of complaints of water leaks. Mayor Rick Hamilton 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.
Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
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