Rescue crews are preparing to take "more extreme measures" to continue search and recovery efforts at a badly damaged Elliot Lake, Ont., mall, an emergency official says.
Part of the mall roof collapsed on Saturday, but since then, beams and slabs have been falling too, CBC's Ioanna Roumeliotis said. The changing conditions hampered search and rescue efforts and eventually made it too dangerous for crews, a rescue official said earlier Monday.
The decision enraged some local residents, who said that the effort should continue. Some locals even volunteered to go in themselves, but an EMS spokesman later said that couldn't be done.
"We are moving to more extreme measures to move this forward," said Elliot Lake fire Chief Paul Officer. "We're hopeful that we can get some success going here."
The situation at the Algo Centre mall remains dangerous, and rescue workers won't be going into the area, CBC's Natalie Kalata reported Monday night. Instead, crews will work with engineers to try to find more mechanical means of entry into the badly damaged space.
Possibilities included trying to remove two slabs of concrete on the stairwell and escalators, CBC's Cheryl Krawchuk reported.
But exactly how — or when — the teams would proceed with a new process was not immediately clear.
It's also not clear exactly how many people may be trapped, but police said earlier Monday that at least one person was dead . Another person had shown signs of life earlier in the day, but it's not known if that person is still alive, CBC reporter Lorenda Redekopp said Monday after the news conference where officials announced they had to suspend the search.
Provincial police said at an afternoon press conference that 20 people were still reported missing by their families.
"I believe we owe it to the families waiting for word of their loved ones to leave no stone unturned. We owe that to the people of Elliot Lake too. Ontarians expect nothing less," Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a statement.
Safety concerns remain
The search effort at the Algo Centre Mall was called off because of mounting safety concerns, including the threat of another collapse, an official said earlier Monday.
Bill Neadles, with the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team from Toronto, said engineers told him the Algo Centre Mall is under strain and too unstable for rescuers to enter safely. Neadles said crews were facing increasingly precarious conditions as they combed the debris for signs of life.
An unstable escalator that forced crews to remove their cranes from the site earlier in the day continued to separate from its supporting beams as the day progressed, he said.
"Realistically, the engineer's telling me he doesn't understand why it hasn't collapsed already," Neadles said. "The building is … totally unsafe."
When asked how many people they believe are inside the rubble-filled portion of the mall, police said they cannot account for two people. There could be more, as it's not yet clear how many people were trapped.
"Our team is certainly not happy," said Neadles. "I'm not happy, nobody's happy that we have to stop work. But that's unfortunately the way we've had to end this situation."
Neadles said local officials will resume control of the site, which is under investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
Ministry officials will issue an order for at least part of the mall to be demolished, he added.
Local residents who gathered for the news conference wept, while some said a mine rescue team should be dispatched to the scene.
'Save our family and friends'
A group of about 50 people later gathered outside city hall to urge officials to resume the search, while some went to the mall to protest. The local newspaper said the crowd was chanting, "Rescue missions never end, save our family and friends."
Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton said he was "hopeful" that the rescue effort could start up again.
"We will be making sure that they exercise every possible avenue to ensure that that rescue is facilitated as quick as possible," Hamilton told the CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge in an interview Monday night.
Hamilton added he understood why residents were frustrated.
"I can't blame them, and that's why we are making every effort possible to make sure we can expedite the process as quickly as possible," he said.
Throughout, mall manager Rhonda Bear said the owners wanted to see the rescue continue.
Bear told CBC's Ivy Cuervo that the owners are "very devastated" and that the owner was so upset he could barely speak.
"They are on the people’s side on this one," Bear said............................