ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. — Two bodies were recovered Wednesday from the wreckage of a partially collapsed shopping mall as search and rescue teams said they do not expect to find any more remains.
Bill Neadles of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team said crews are still at work sifting through a 12-metre long pile of debris inside the Algo Centre Mall in this northern Ontario city.
“Our efforts will be concentrated to finish that rubble pile … to ensure that we are in fact correct in my assumption that there’s only the two victims within that complex,” Neadles told a news conference.
Search efforts are expected to wrap up within the next few hours, he added.
Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore said officers still have a list of people who remain unaccounted for, but stressed those names may not be tied to the mall collapse.
Mayor Rick Hamilton called Wednesday’s discovery “a deep, deep tragedy,” one that affects not just the victims and their families but the entire community.
“It’s with heavy hearts and the deepest condolences on behalf of every citizen in Elliot Lake that we offer our condolences to the families,” he said.
“It’s indeed a tragic time for the citizens of Elliot Lake.”
Television footage showed some rescue workers taking off their hard hats and bowing their heads as the stretcher with the first body was carried out.
The bodies were removed after a specialized robotic arm worked through the night to clear a path through the debris that accumulated when a section of the roof crashed through the two-storey building on Saturday afternoon.
The operation required crews to orchestrate the collapse of a precariously balanced escalator and remove slabs of concrete from the scene.
The removal of the bodies marked a tragic culmination of a risky rescue operation that members of the community said came too late.
Officials called off the operation on Monday after determining the unstable structure posed too many dangers to rescue crews and could disintegrate further at any time.
Residents promptly rallied in protest, and the search resumed after Premier Dalton McGuinty urged officials to reconsider.
Rescue crews had to abandon their original plan of entering the mall to search for victims, opting instead to partially dismantle the building and work their way in from the outside.