A fire raged through a seniors' home in eastern Quebec yesterday, trapping residents dependent on wheelchairs and walkers. Five died, about 30 were missing and Canada's prime minister said there is little doubt the death toll will be high: Officials said firefighters saw and heard people in the building that they were unable to save. The search for the missing was still hampered last night by the cold and thick ice and the fact that the building has collapsed, police say.
Many of those unaccounted for were confined to wheelchairs and walkers and only five residents in the center were fully autonomous, says the acting mayor of the small town of L'Isle-Verte. In what a local firefighter describes as a "night from hell," the fire broke out after midnight and burned through the night, destroying the wooden structure with a blaze so intense and smoke so thick that rescuers found it nearly impossible to approach the building. One neighbor describes an awful scene: "A woman on the second floor was shouting and she went out on to the balcony. Her son went to get a ladder but he couldn't get to her. She burned to death." (Read more Quebec stories.)