10 dead, 22 unaccounted for in Quebec nursing home fire

A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte,...

A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:35 PM ET

L'ISLE-VERTE, Que. -- Firefighters have now recovered 10 bodies from a nursing home which caught fire Thursday morning, while 22 people are still missing.

In a press conference Saturday afternoon, officials said a third victim has been identified and their family will be notified.

As well, they said a special piece of equipment has been brought in to help melt the ice, which is 60 cm thick in some spots.

At an earlier news conference Saturday, Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Surete du Québec said they could not confirm the cause of the fire but smoking may to blame.

Bruno Belanger, the overnight orderly at Residence du Havre, was the only one on duty when fire broke out on Thursday morning.

Belanger told QMI Agency he was "95% sure" the fire was smoking-related.

Less than an hour before the fire alarm went off, Belanger said he prevented a resident from going outside to smoke a cigarette.

He said residents are not allowed out after 11 p.m. because the doors are locked.

The orderly said he went to check on the man in his room a few minutes later just to make sure before going to the kitchen to prepare the next day's breakfast.

After the alarm went off, Belanger went up to the second floor and noticed that the fire was centred around the elderly smoker's room.

"There was smoke above the door, which was still ajar," Belanger said. "Then I began to suffocate. It was black. I thought I would die there."

Within five minutes, the fire had already spread throughout the building.

Belanger says several residents were medicated and might not even have woken up when the alarm sounded.

"I think about the horror of seeing them fight for their lives," Belanger said. "I think about this lady who was going to turn 100 years old. I don't know what she could have done. It's indescribable."


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