Fire Razes Canadian Elderly Home, 3 Dead, 30 Missing, ‘Old Mother Burned Before Son’s Eyes’

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 24, 2014 12:21 PM EST

At least three people have been confirmed dead in a fire that razed down a home for the elderly in Quebec province in Canada on Thursday. Some 30 others are still missing.

The fire which broke out shortly after midnight (0500 GMT) completely engulfed in flames the Residence du Havre in a matter of minutes. "It was fanned by the wind," Pascal Fillion, a neighbour who witnessed the devastation, told French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada.

It took five hours to extinguish the fire.

"We could hear screaming from inside. The fire was intense, it was like a haystack on fire," Mr Fillion added.

A firefighter walks past the Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. At least three people died and 30 were missing after a fire ripped through the residence for the elderly in the Eastern Canadian province of Quebec overnight, police said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
A firefighter walks past the Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. At least three people died and 30 were missing after a fire ripped through the residence for the elderly in the Eastern Canadian province of Quebec overnight, police said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

The Residence du Havre is located in the small community of L'Isle-Verte, south of the St. Lawrence River, some 230 kilometres (140 miles) northeast of Quebec City. It has 52 rooms that is home to nearly 60 elderly people, where 37 were aged 85 years old and older.

L'Isle Verte has a population of about 1,400 people.

"This was a night from hell," local fire chief Yvan Charron said. "It was a ball of fire. There were high winds. We did what we could,"

"A woman on the second floor was shouting and she went out on to the balcony," Mario Michaud, who lives opposite the complex, told Info Dimanche. "Her son went to get a ladder but he couldn't get to her. She burned to death right there on the balcony."

Around 23 people were evacuated from one third of the building. Thirteen of them were injured, authorities said, and are now being treated at nearby hospitals. Two firefighters were also hurt during the operations.

Ann Mathieu, Quebec police spokeswoman, hoped the 30 missing are still alive and well.

"That does not necessarily mean 30 people have lost their lives. It's possible that some were relocated with other people. Some might be away with their families," she told a televised briefing.

Gaetan Lelievre, a provincial minister, told Radio-Canada the death toll could rise.

Local television broadcasted the tragedy, showing flames lapping at the wood-frame building.

By morning what could be seen left from the devastation was a solitary chimney standing among the ashes.

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A firefighter walks past the Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec, January 23, 2014. At least three people died and 30 were missing after a fire ripped through the residence for the elderly in the Eastern Canadian province of Quebec overnight, police said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
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