Local residents react as they listen in during a news conference as rescue workers continue attempts to secure the building before searching for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake

Mall search back on at urging of premier

Officials in Elliot Lake, Ont., say they are resuming rescue efforts at a partially collapsed mall after an appeal from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. — Officials in Elliot Lake, Ont., say they are resuming rescue efforts at a partially collapsed mall after an appeal from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The turnabout came just hours after the search efforts were called off because it was deemed to dangerous to send crews inside. They told a news conference a plan is still in the works.

McGuinty said late Monday night that he asked that any other options be considered, including using heavy equipment to dismantle the building from the outside.

The premier says if a member of his family or a close friend might be inside, he would want “no stone left unturned,” and they owe it to the families and community of Elliot Lake to give it the best shot.

Officials said they detected “signs of life” earlier in the day.

“That person is still there,” said Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore. “I don’t know the condition of that individual.”

Dozens of local residents protested in front of city hall after the decision to abandon the search was announced, saying it was too soon to abandon the search.

A parking lot on the roof of the shopping centre crashed two floors down into the mall below on Saturday afternoon.

Bill Needles of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team said it was just too dangerous to continue the search. The section of the Algo Centre mall levelled by Saturday’s collapse became increasingly unstable as crews sifted through the rubble looking for survivors.

At least two bodies are still inside the structure, and Needles said crews will not be able to rescue any survivors.

“Our team is certainly not happy. I’m not happy, nobody’s happy that we have to stop work,” Needles told a news conference. “But that’s unfortunately the way that we’ve had to end this situation.”

Needles said would-be rescuers 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,” Needles said. “What that does is it makes the determination that the building is … totally unsafe.”

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.

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