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Thirty feared dead in Canadian elderly home fire

Published on Jan 24, 2014 11:42 AM

L'ISLE-VERTE (AFP) - Canadian firefighters searched the ashes of a Quebec retirement home Thursday after it burned nearly to the ground on a bleak midwinter night, leaving more than 30 residents feared dead.

Quebec police confirmed five fatalities from the blaze, while three dozen more remained unaccounted for as rescuers prepared to search through the night for more victims. The search and an investigation into the cause of the fire were hampered by up to 30 centimeters of ice covering the wreckage after water used to douse the fire froze.

The blaze at the 52-unit home, which housed around 50 to 60 elderly people, half of them more than 85 years old, broke out shortly after midnight.

"We could hear screaming from inside. The fire was intense, it was like a haystack on fire," witness and neighbor Pascal Fillion told French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada. By 1:00 am, the building "was completely engulfed in flames, which were fanned by the wind," he said.

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