Search and rescue team looks for survivors at mall roof collapse site

Although there are no reported casualties, 40 members of Toronto's USAR team sift the rubble of the two-story mall

ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario — Rescue teams and dogs searched through the rubble Sunday at a shopping mall in Canada where a roof collapsed through two floors, leaving several people missing and 22 people slightly injured.

Authorities said no casualties have been reported and the names of the missing continue to be crossed off the list as members of the community account for their loved ones. But a number of people remain unaccounted for since the collapse Saturday afternoon at Algo Centre Mall in the northern Ontario city of Elliott Lake.

Stephan Powell of Toronto Fire Services said 40 members of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team were removing pieces of the structure in an effort to extricate anyone who might have been trapped.

Kate Matuszewski, a spokeswoman for city, said emergency services were removed at one point Saturday due to safety issues.

Ontario Provincial Police Inspector Percy Jollymore urged anyone worried about missing loved ones to check in at an information center where police are tracking those who are unaccounted for.

A portion of the roof that serves as a parking area crumbled down two floors into an area near the food court, exposing metal and concrete supports.

Emergency officials quickly cleared out the mall and closed surrounding roads after the collapse triggered a gas leak. Mayor Rick Hamilton declared a state of emergency.

Ontario Provincial Police said 22 people were taken to hospital but none were seriously hurt.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he was in touch with Elliot Lake's mayor and thanked emergency crews in the city for their efforts.

"As we anxiously wait to learn more about anyone thought to be missing in Elliot Lake, our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and also with those who have been injured and indeed with the entire community," McGuinty said in a statement.

Joe Drazil, a Zellers store employee, said several cars appeared to have fallen through the gaping hole near some escalators.

"You can see the roof with the cars hanging inside," he said. "Everybody was cleared from the whole mall. After that, there was numerous police and emergency vehicles coming from all over."

Shopper Jean-Marc Hayward was having coffee when the roof collapsed about 20 feet (6 meters) from him. He said a big hunk of concrete tumbled down through two floors and that it sounded like an explosion.  "It was a big loud crash. It didn't just go down one floor it went down two floors," he said.

Hayward said he saw one man with a bloody face. Hayward, a dwarf who has trouble with his legs, said he couldn't run out.

"I was sucking in dust," he said.

Hayward and others have said the mall roof has leaked water for some time.  There have long been buckets and tarps around the mall to collect leaking water, Hayward said.

"It's obvious there has been a lot of damage in the structure because of the water," Hayward said.  "A couple of years ago they said they fixed all the leaks in the mall, but they didn't. You could tell every time it rained."

Powell could not confirm if rescue officials had been briefed about the water leaking issue.

The two-level mall in this northern Ontario community is approximately 200,000 square feet (18,580 sq. meters). It houses a grocery store, restaurants, a number of retail outlets, a hotel, and the constituency office for a member of the provincial parliament.

Calls to the management office and the Algo Inn hotel attached to the mall were not answered.

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