The Elliot Lake mall collapse: Official Demolition operation with survivors inside?
2012-06-27 0:00

Compiled by Elizabeth Leafloor |

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The Elliot Lake mall collapse and going ‘missing’ in the digital age

By Matt Gurney |

On Saturday, a rooftop parking lot collapsed into a busy shopping mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. One person is believed dead, perhaps as many as 30 missing. This is shocking in a country where building codes and modern construction techniques have largely banished sudden structural collapses to the “World” section of newspapers. There is also the dawning realization that all of this may turn out to have been not just preventable, but foreseeable — reports have been emerging of structural problems with that roof going back several years.

Soon enough, we’ll have our answers — how many dead, how many wounded, what happened and if it could have been avoided. Until then, we’re left waiting for more information, something that falls hardest on the families of the missing.

Especially today. Vanishing during a disaster used to be a something that would happen even to those that survived unscathed — it could take hours or days to get word to your loved ones that you were safe and sound in the aftermath of a tragedy. That was before each of us carried a combined telephone and email device with us at all times as a matter of routine. In our digital age, when disaster strikes, we expect to hear from our loved ones right away. If we don’t, the panic sets in.

Based on what is known about the Elliot Lake collapse so far, it bears some resemblance to a disaster that struck Kansas City in 1981. The Hyatt Regency Hotel in that city was hosting a dance in its expansive lobby when two pedestrian walkways suspended above suddenly collapsed, killing 114 and injuring hundreds more. An investigation eventually concluded that engineering compromises made to keep the walkways sleek and attractive had put too much strain on critical support joints. But on the night of the disaster, as rescuers fought to dig out survivors before water from broken pipes could drown them, the only way to figure out who was trapped or dead was either to identify corpses or interview eyewitnesses who could say, with certainty, that they’d seen someone they knew crushed.


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Image: Source - Paul Kazulak / The Canadian Press

Rescue workers have removed what appeared to be a body from the rubble of a caved-in mall in the northern Ontario city of Elliot Lake.

Officials have not confirmed any details, but television footage showed some rescue workers taking off their hard hats as the stretcher was carried out.

Cranes have been toiling overnight to pull debris and clear a path for crews and search dogs to go into the wreckage.

The risky operation was initially called off on Monday over concern that a precariously balanced escalator might collapse on rescue workers.

But an outpouring of concern from the community prompted Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to secure more resources for the rescue mission.

The mall’s roof collapsed Saturday afternoon killing at least one person and officials have confirmed that at least two people were trapped inside.


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