Efforts continue to reach victims of mall collapse in northern Ontario - InfoNews

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Efforts continue to reach victims of mall collapse in northern Ontario

Rescue workers wait to access the wreckage of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., early Wednesday, June 27, 2012, as cranes remove debris caused by the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
June 27, 2012 - 4:00 AM

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. - Residents of this northern Ontario town are tensely waiting while a risky rescue operation continues at a collapsed mall where at least two people have been trapped since Saturday.

Dozens of people camped out in front of the Algo Centre mall late into the night and clung to hope despite predictions from officials that the chances that anyone is alive inside are slim.

At least one person is confirmed dead after the roof of the mall crashed through the two-floor building on Saturday afternoon. More than 20 people were injured, none of them seriously.

Meanwhile, the number of those still unaccounted for has been knocked down to 12, officials said Tuesday.

The rescue effort encountered another setback Tuesday when a massive robotic arm was unable to reach an unstable escalator through the hole in the roof.

The goal was to push the escalator aside so rescue crews could safely enter the mall. Instead, the large machine began to methodically pluck pieces of the mall’s facade and some of the debris inside in order to clear a path.

“It’s a very surgical removal of certain pieces so that we can then get in and move,” said Ontario’s community safety commissioner Dan Heskey.

“It’s kind of like when you’re reaching your arm in the cupboard and you have to move all the cups away to get to the one in the back.”

Once the delicate structures within are pushed out of the way, engineers will assess whether the building is stable enough for search dogs and rescue workers to go in.

Bill Neadles of Toronto’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team said, however, that no one has detected signs of life since Monday morning. He added that the prognosis is not positive.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday that community members have the support of the entire province.

“They’re not alone. We are 13 million Ontarians strong. They are part of the family,” he said. “They have our prayers, but more than that, they have our active support.”

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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