Owner of seniors' residence speaks out

The owner of a Quebec seniors' residence that burned to the ground offered his condolences to the victims Sunday.

Speaking to a throng of reporters outside the church in L'Isle-Verte, Roch Bernier said it was not the right time to say whether he would rebuild the residence.

He said the mass, attended by more than 1,000 people, was a day for the victims, the missing and residents of the town.

Bernier received a standing ovation as he stood up to speak at the mass.

"What you're living inside, we are living it inside as well," he told the gathering, which included Premier Pauline Marois and Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard.

"We will try to find the strength to get through this."

A formal commemorative ceremony featuring dignitaries has been scheduled for this coming Saturday.

Sunday was a chance for the tiny Quebec village to voice its collective grief, with priest Gilles Frigon calling it ''a first step toward healing."

Meanwhile, authorities said there was no change in the number of victims. Ten people have been confirmed dead and 22 others are missing and presumed dead after Thursday's blaze at the Residence du Havre. Three have been positively identified by the coroner's office.

Searches were hampered Sunday by bitter cold, poor visibility, blowing snow and winds up to 90 km-h, provincial police Lt. Guy Lapointe told a news conference.

He said a de-icing machine usually used for ships has been brought in to melt the thick layer of ice covering the rubble.

"We're using it in a different fashion in a sense, to be more delicate in our approach, but it's been yielding promising results," Lapointe said.

Marois arrived in L'Isle-Verte on Sunday to see first-hand the results of the fatal fire, cutting short a trip to Europe to deliver condolences in the village of about 1,500.

The premier called the brutal blaze "unacceptable" and said she hopes such a tragedy never repeats.

She told a news conference that everything is being done to provide support for those who survived the fire and to give closure to those still awaiting word on their loved ones.

Marois met with Mayor Ursule Theriault and aid workers and had a look at the rubble herself.

The premier said she wants to see the results of the various investigations into the blaze before rushing to judgment.

"We will wait for the inquiry because now we don't have the results of this evaluation and examination," Marois said. "After that, we will see if there are some new rules to adopt."

Marois said a working committee has been in place for one year studying a number of issues, including whether sprinklers should be mandatory in buildings such as the Residence du Havre.

"If they recommend to us to change the rules, to change the laws and implement (mandatory) sprinklers, we will do that," Marois said.

Marois applauded the efforts of the police, firefighters and other first responders.

"For the people who are working on these situations, it's not easy to do that, so I want to say 'thank you very much'," she said.

The coroner's office formally identified a third victim on Sunday — Louis-Philippe Roy, 89.


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