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Death toll in Quebec seniors' home fire rises to 21, 11 still missing

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Emergency workers continue the search for victims Saturday, January 25, 2014 in L'Isle-Verte, Que. at the scene of a fatal fire at a seniors residence. Quebec provincial police say they are not ruling out anything — including a criminal cause — in their investigation of a fire at a seniors' home in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

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Emergency workers continue the search for victims Saturday, January 25, 2014 in L'Isle-Verte, Que. at the scene of a fatal fire at a seniors residence. Quebec provincial police say they are not ruling out anything — including a criminal cause — in their investigation of a fire at a seniors' home in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

L'ISLE-VERTE, Que. - Quebec provincial police say 21 people have been confirmed dead in a fire that ripped through a seniors' home last week.

Another 11 people were still listed as officially missing on Thursday following the early morning blaze at the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23.

Thursday's updated death toll came as Pope Francis reached out from the Vatican to offer spiritual support to the grieving community.

Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, wrote that Pope Francis was immediately touched by the tragedy upon learning of it.

He said the Pope imparted a special apostolic blessing to those affected by the tragedy.

The Pope's sympathies followed those of the Queen, who offered her condolences in a message released a day after the fire.

The archbishop said the pontiff "united himself in prayer in the grief of the bereaved families and entrusted the victims to the mercy of God, that they might be accepted into his light."

The pontiff also "expressed his spiritual closeness to the injured and their families, as well as the firefighters and rescue workers who have performed a great work of solidarity."

Emergency crews have worked in sub-zero temperatures to recover bodies and evidence from the rubble of the seniors' home.

Special machines to melt thick sheets of ice coating the structure have been used to help them gain access.

The residence had 52 units and many of its occupants had limited mobility, needing wheelchairs or walkers to get around.

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