Elliot Lake mall roof collapse: Canada's PM offers federal help


A portion of a roof collapsed in an Ontario shopping mall on June 23, 2012, leaving 22 people with minor injuries and several missing.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered federal help as rescue workers in the northern Ontario town of Elliot Lake prepared to intensify their search for survivors from Saturday's mall roof collapse.  

Reuters says that rescue workers are waiting for specialized equipment to arrive at the Algo Centre Mall, but adds that hopes of finding anyone alive have faded.  So far, one person is confirmed dead, another is believed to have died and 12 people are unaccounted for. 

"You are going to see some very serious machinery roll into town in the next couple of hours to advance our operation and move into that building as safely as we can," Bill Neadles from the Heavy Urban Search And Rescue Team in Toronto, is quoted as saying by CBS.

Prime Minister Harper has also offered to send in the military to help, BBC reports.

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Rescuers detected breathing inside the rubble early on Monday, says Associated Press, but called off the search later that day because the building was not secure enough to send rescue teams back in.  

Dozens of residents responded by protesting outside city hall chanting "rescue missions never end, save our families, save our friends," and the Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wanted to explore the slim odds of a rescue, according to Fox News.  The search resumed shortly afterwards.

"I believe we owe it to the families waiting for word of their loved ones to leave no stone unturned," McGuinty is quoted as saying.

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Gary Gendron, whose fiancée Lucie Aylwin is among the missing, told CBS he believed she may have been responsible for tapping heard by rescue workers on Sunday morning. 

"Every time that we go on holidays or if there is a bathroom next to each other, we always do the tap-tap twice," he said. "I know it sounds maybe dumb and stupid, but it is not."   He added that he would wait at the mall "until they pull her out."