26 Jan 2014

Quebec town prepares to mourn fire victims

7:08 pm on 26 January 2014

A memorial service will be held in a small Canadian town on Sunday for 32 people who died in a massive fire that engulfed a three-storey wooden retirement home.

Ten bodies have been recovered and 22 people are still missing in the ruins of the building in L'Isle-Verte, a town of 1500 people on the St Lawrence River north-east of Quebec City.

Braving brutal cold, special teams of police, firefighters and coroner's office officials have been using steam and hot air to melt thick ice encasing the bodies of victims in the burned ruins.

Despite media reports alleging a cigarette ignited the fire, the police say they still do not know the cause of the disaster.

Reuters reports the disaster looks set to be the second worst to hit a Canadian seniors' home after a 1969 blaze in Quebec that killed 54 people.

Only part of the residence was equipped with sprinklers. Quebec law does not require sprinkler systems in residences where the occupants have some mobility.