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Owner of burned senior home speaks out

Crews continue to look for residents

  • People arrive for a commemorative service for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    People arrive for a commemorative service for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • A woman holds a flower as she arrives for a commemorative service, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    A woman holds a flower as she arrives for a commemorative service, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visits the site of the fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visits the site of the fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • A police investigator signals to colleagues as they search through icy rubble to trying to locate more victims of a fire that destroyed a seniors' residence Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. Five people are confirmed dead and 30 people are still missing, while with cause of Thursday morning's blaze is unclear police said. Authorities are using steam to melt the ice and to preserve any bodies that are buried. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    A police investigator signals to colleagues as they search through icy rubble to trying to locate more victims of a fire that destroyed a seniors' residence Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. Five people are confirmed dead and 30 people are still missing, while with cause of Thursday morning's blaze is unclear police said. Authorities are using steam to melt the ice and to preserve any bodies that are buried. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

    Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • People arrive for a commemorative service for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
  • A woman holds a flower as she arrives for a commemorative service, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, for victims of last week's fatal fire at a seniors residence in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
  • Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
  • Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visits the site of the fatal fire at a seniors residence, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
  • A police investigator signals to colleagues as they search through icy rubble to trying to locate more victims of a fire that destroyed a seniors' residence Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. Five people are confirmed dead and 30 people are still missing, while with cause of Thursday morning's blaze is unclear police said. Authorities are using steam to melt the ice and to preserve any bodies that are buried. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
  • Emergency workers resume the search for victims at a fatal seniors residence fire, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

The owner of a Quebec seniors’ residence that burned to the ground offered his condolences yesterday to the families of the 32 people feared dead as search crews had trouble recovering any more bodies in the ice-covered rubble due to the frigid temperatures and swirling snow. Officials have so far have recovered 10 bodies from the massive fire.

The yesterday afternoon Mass gave residents of the Quebec town of L’Isle-Verte a chance to gather together to share their grief. Father Gilles Frigon, the town’s Catholic priest, called it “a step toward healing” and invited relatives and friends to bring photos of the victims.

Roch Bernier, the owner of the Residence du Havre, received a standing ovation from the more than 1,000 people in attendance as he stood up to speak at the Mass.

“What you’re living inside, we are living it inside as well,” he told the gathering. “We will try to find the strength to get through this.”

Bernier later spoke to reporters but declined to take questions.

“That gentleman there showed tremendous courage,” said Mayor Ursule Theriault as she wiped away tears at a news conference.

“He’s been deeply affected by this, but he spoke to us, and I think that’s what marked me the most today.”

The cause of Thursday’s blaze remains under investigation. There were reports that the fire began in the room of a resident who was smoking a cigarette, but the police said that was just one possibility among many.

The Quebec police said poor visibility, blowing snow and frigid conditions forced authorities to temporarily suspend searches early yesterday – the fourth day of the excruciating search.

The police later resumed the search, a day after the remains of only two more people were pulled from the rubble.

“It makes the work quite difficult. We had to make our rotations shorter because it was very cold out there,” Quebec police Lt. Guy Lapointe said.

On Saturday, search teams brought in equipment normally used to de-ice ships that pushes out very hot air to melt down ice that the police said was 2 feet thick in certain places.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois cut short a trip to Europe to visit L’Isle-Verte yesterday, where she met with the mayor and went to the scene of the fire.

The premier told a news conference that everything is being done to provide support for those who survived the fire and to give closure to those still awaiting word on their loved ones.

She called the blaze “unacceptable” and said the provincial government is prepared to bring about any changes that are necessary to increase safety in senior residences.

“First of all, we will wait for the inquiry because now, we don’t have the results of this evaluation and examination,” Marois said. “After that, we will see if there are some new rules to adopt.”

A total of 10 bodies had been recovered as of last night. The coroner’s office formally identified a third victim yesterday – Louis-Philippe Roy, 89.

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