Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mall rescue called off, then ordered back on

Province intervenes in search for survivors

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ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. -- The search for survivors at a collapsed mall in this northern Ontario city was to resume after a late-night appeal Monday from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The turnabout came just hours after the search efforts were called off because it was deemed too dangerous to send crews inside.

Rescuers told a news conference a plan is in the works to get back inside.

McGuinty told The Canadian Press Monday night he asked that any other options be considered, including using heavy equipment to dismantle the building from the outside.

The premier said if a member of his family or close friend were inside, he would want "no stone left unturned," and the province owes it to the families and community to give it the best shot.

At least two people were believed inside after a parking lot on the roof of the Algo Centre Mall crashed two floors down into the mall below on Saturday. On Monday afternoon, rescuers said they detected "signs of life."

One person has been confirmed killed.

Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore said officers are still trying to determine how many others are missing.

A list of names submitted by concerned citizens has been fluctuating dramatically since the accident, he said, adding at least two have remained constant.

"We do have two names of people who are known to be in the mall," Jollymore said. "Their names have never disappeared on the list."

Earlier in the day, personal vigils gave way to outraged protests after officials announced they were halting efforts to rescue possible survivors.

Dozens of angry community members gathered outside city hall to express their disgust that officials had walked away from a rescue effort they deemed too dangerous.

"Rescue missions never end, save our families, save our friends," chanted the protesters, adding efforts to recover survivors had gone on for days in the wake of high-profile tragedies.

Residents of the former mining hub said abandoning trapped comrades would be unthinkable in miners' culture, speculating volunteer mineworkers should take up the rescue themselves.

The mall's owner also announced they were seeking a court injunction against the decision to halt the rescue.

"Our hopes and prayers are with the families of those affected by this tragedy," Rhonda Bear of Eastwood Mall Inc. said in an email to The Canadian Press.

Bill Needles of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team had said earlier Monday that crews were facing the threat of a secondary collapse within the fragile structure.

The section of shopping mall levelled when part of the roof came crashing down Saturday became increasingly unstable as crews sifted through the rubble, he said.

Early Monday, concerned community members gathered at the mall to learn the fate of their loved ones and offer support to those awaiting word.

"We're all trying to remain positive that everyone's going to come out of there and be fine," said Catherine Timleck-Shaw.

"We've all banded together. We talk, we hug. We're just here together."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 A8

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