WINDSOR, Que. — More than 36 hours after a multi-storey scaffold collapsed at a Quebec paper mill, rescue crews continued to search for two workers trapped in the debris Wednesday.
Nancy Corriveau, a spokeswoman for the City of Sherbrooke, whose fire department is assisting with the rescue operation at the Domtar mill in Windsor, Que., said Wednesday afternoon that rescuers didn’t expect to reach the two workers before the evening, at the earliest.
Earlier in the day, Sherbrooke fire Chief Stéphane Simoneau told reporters that the operation is going slowly because rescuers are worried about causing more material to fall on the trapped workers.
“You have to understand our concern is to not cause another collapse,” he told a news conference. “Obviously, there is also a concern for the rescuers. We certainly don’t want to cause other injuries. We have to move carefully.”
The workers are trapped in a silo about 60 metres high, Simoneau said. The scaffolding had been installed inside the silo before several storeys of it collapsed.
Firefighters have three entry points to the silo — each one measuring around 75 centimetres — adding to the complexity of the rescue, he said.
While rescuers don’t know the status of the two workers, they are proceeding as if the men are still alive, Simoneau said.
“We are almost certain about where we will find them, but we’re not in visual or audible contact because there is a pile of debris that separates us from them,” he said. Attempts to use an infrared camera to locate the men were not successful due to the amount of debris, he said.
A specialized rescue squad from the Sherbrooke fire department was called in to support the local fire department in Windsor, which is about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
The incident took place shortly after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. The mill’s emergency team rescued five people, Simoneau said, including one person who was in critical condition. “Thanks to them, they were able to save a life. Now, there are two lives still to be saved,” he said.
The local ambulance service said three people were taken to hospital after the collapse, including the man who was in critical condition. He is expected to survive.
The workers are employed by a contracting firm that is doing major work at the mill.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press