Search For Survivors Of Canada Mall Collapse

By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CNN)-- The search for survivors at a mall where a roof collapsed in Canada will take a new turn Tuesday with "heavy machinery" and "sophisticated robotics," officials said.

One person is believed dead after the collapse Saturday, while a second is missing and could still be alive, trapped under the debris of the Algo Centre Mall in southern Ontario's Elliot Lake community, officials said. Rescuers detected what they believed to be sounds of breathing around 4 a.m. Monday. Tapping sounds were heard Sunday.

The search-and-rescue team will use military and mining equipment to dismantle the collapsed portion of the mall from the outside because it is too dangerous to send anyone inside, said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The equipment is scheduled to arrive early Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Although some residents are upset the team halted the search for safety reasons just hours after the collapse, he said he doesn't "second question the decisions that were made on the ground." The search resumed Monday.

The rescue team is working around the clock -- "short on sleep" and "emotionally distraught" -- because they don't want to leave anyone behind, McGuinty said.

"Every cell in your body screams for you to keep going," he said.

The team will attempt to remove rubble from the mall using a crane and robotics, McGuinty said. He added that while there is always a risk to rescuers, the machinery will allow them to continue the search in an unstable zone, where it appears more of the structure could collapse at any time.

"There's a high probability that this whole thing is going to come down on the inside," Bill Neadles of the Toronto-based rescue team said at a news conference Monday.

Pictures of the scene showed a portion of a rooftop parking deck had collapsed, sending metal and concrete debris crashing through multiple levels of the mall.

"We can't put more lives at risk unnecessarily ... because we've been given information that shows it's very unstable," Rob deBortoli, chief administrative officer for the city of Elliot Lake, said at a news conference Monday attended by local residents as well as media personnel.

The news Monday that the search would be stopped triggered an emotional response from the townspeople of southern Ontario's Elliot Lake community.

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"We come from a mining town, where mine rescue never gave up on their people, and it didn't matter how bad it was, they stuck it out. They were there," Elliot Lake resident Cynthia Sopher pleaded to officials during the news conference.

Another resident prompted applause from others in the crowd when she tearfully asked, "How are we going to deal with the one that may still be alive? We can't just let them die."

Stress on the remaining structure had increased as heavy concrete fell near the mall's escalators and stairs, Neadles said. Beams supporting the escalators and stairs started to bow, and an engineer on site "doesn't understand why it hasn't collapsed already," Neadles said.

But in a hastily called news conference later Monday, Hamilton announced that local authorities had received "full approval" from Ontario government officials to proceed with the search. McGuinty released a statement saying, "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 Elliott Lake, too."

Shoppers and mall employees described a chaotic scene as they fled the structure. At least 22 people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Although counts of missing people varied in the hours and days after the collapse, authorities said Monday that they knew that at least two people remained unaccounted for.


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