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Search suspended in Quebec village

Quebec provincial police say they've temporarily suspended searches at the scene of a seniors' residence fire today due to terrible weather conditions in the area.

Police spokeswoman Ann Mathieu says a decision was made to halt the searches in L'Isle-Verte because of poor visibility, blowing snow and frigid conditions.

She says authorities are waiting for the weather to improve before resuming their searches.

Police said today the numbers remain unchanged from Saturday — 10 people are dead and 22 others are believed to have died.

Meanwhile, residents of the village will get a chance to voice their collective grief today.

Local priest Gilles Frigon says an afternoon mass is also aimed at allowing first responders at last Thursday's tragedy to express their suffering.

Frigon wants the celebration to be family-oriented and intimate with the emphasis on local residents and people from the surrounding area.

People are being invited to bring photos of those officially declared dead as well as of the 22 others who are feared to have lost their lives.

Frigon says the mass and the collective gathering is all about the grief of people affected by the loss of friends and relatives.

A more formal commemorative ceremony has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 1. That event will feature more dignitaries.

Frigon called Sunday's mass "a first step toward healing."

"It will be family-oriented and intimate, so that in this tragic event we're going through, we can find ourselves and rebuild our hearts," he said.

"It will be about the grief of people who are affected by the loss of their father, their mother, their grandfather, their grandmother, their great-grandfather and their great-grandmother."

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has said she will visit L'Isle-Verte on Sunday, but it is unclear whether she will attend the mass.

How the blaze began is still unclear, with police saying it is far too early to conclude that a cigarette was the cause.

On Saturday, the coroner's office identified two victims: Juliette Saindon, 95, and Marie-Laureat Dube, 82. A third person has been identified and his or her name will be released on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross announced Saturday it has raised $200,000 for the community. The money will go to various things like eyeglasses, furniture and clothing.

The Canadian Press

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