Death toll rises in Quebec seniors' fire

Quebec provincial police say 21 people are now confirmed dead in a fire that ripped through a seniors' home last week.

Eleven people are still missing following the early morning blaze at the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23.

Today's updated death toll came as Pope Francis reached out from the Vatican to offer spiritual support to the grieving community.

Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, wrote that Pope Francis was immediately touched by the tragedy upon learning of it.

He says the Pope has imparted a special apostolic blessing to those affected by the tragedy.

The Pope's sympathies follow those of the Queen, who offered her condolences in a message released a day after the fire.

The archbishop said the pontiff "united himself in prayer in the grief of the bereaved families and entrusted the victims to the mercy of God, that they might be accepted into his light."

Pope Francis imparted a special apostolic blessing "to all those affected by this tragedy" as a "sign of comfort," he added in the letter released Thursday.

The pontiff also "expressed his spiritual closeness to the injured and their families, as well as the firefighters and rescue workers who have performed a great work of solidarity."

Emergency crews have worked in sub-zero temperatures to recover bodies and evidence from the rubble of the seniors' home.

Special machines to melt thick sheets of ice coating the structure have been used to help them gain access.

The residence had 52 units and many of its occupants had limited mobility, needing wheelchairs or walkers to get around.


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