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Death toll in Canadian seniors home fire hits 14; 18 still missing

  |   Jan. 27, 2014 at 9:12 PM
L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Eighteen residents of a burned-out senior citizens home in Canada were still missing Monday with the confirmed death toll at 14, officials said Monday.

Efforts to find the victim's of last Thursday's fire at the Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec, were hindered by the ice that coated the fire scene.

"I am moved and overwhelmed by this catastrophe, which is making me relive the tragedy of Lac-Megantic," Health Minister Rejean Hebert said during a visit to the fire scene, referring to the runaway train explosion and fire in the province that killed more than 40 people last summer.

"These are extremely painful times and I want to underline my sympathy for all the victims and their families. All of Quebec is in mourning."

Hebert spent time with survivors who are still in the hospital and others living in temporary residences, the (Montreal) Gazette reported.

Hebert said the tragedy heightened attention on the issue of sprinklers in homes for the elderly. The newer section of the Residence du Havre had sprinklers, and residents there survived. The victims were in an older section built in 1997 that was without sprinklers.

"I have been preoccupied by the safety of elderly people for many years," Hebert told reporters. "When I took office I was concerned and implemented regulations for private facilities, which have now been in place for a year. A special committee is now looking into the question of sprinklers to find out how to implement stricter criteria. It's difficult to do this faster than we've done.

"It's a complex problem. [Which] facilities should be covered? How can regulations be implemented? How do we finance that and support the facilities financially?

"The tragedy of L'Isle Verte will accelerate the committee's work -- but we were acting on this before."

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