Dramatic stories of rescue, loss and horror are emerging after a devastating overnight fire at the Résidence du Havre seniors home in L’Isle-Verte, Que.
Police have confirmed five deaths, and 30 are still unaccounted for after a massive fire engulfed the seniors home.
Several survivors are being cared for by Red Cross volunteers at a local school, while at least 10 more are being treated in various hospitals. Many, it’s feared, did not make it out of the building, which is now covered in ice after the lengthy firefighting effort.
Here is what some of the witnesses had to say:
'They tried to save her'
Martin Deslauriers told reporters his 80-year-old grandmother died in the fire.
“She called out for her youngest grandson to come save her ... but they weren’t able to,” Deslauriers said.
“She was on the second storey … they tried to save her with a ladder. She went out on the balcony, but they weren’t able to save her."
Mercier Dubé was lucky. His uncle, a resident at the seniors home, was rescued and the two were reunited shortly after at the nearby Moisson-d’Or school.
Firefighters 'did what they could'
L’Isle-Verte resident Mario Michaud said he could see the raging fire, which started around 12:30 ET, from his house. He called 911.
The fire “spread very fast, the firefighters hadn’t arrived and it was degenerating very quickly,” Michaud told CBC Montreal’s morning show Daybreak.
Firefighters “did what they could, but they couldn’t save anything,” Michaud said.
“They weren’t able to get anyone out through the front, but they saved people from the back … about 20 people.”
'It wasn't a normal house fire'
Pascal Fillion, who also lives near the retirement home, said his roommate woke him up at about 1 a.m. and they went outside to see what was happening.
"It wasn't a normal house fire, it was like a sheet of paper ... it was so intense," Fillion said.
Fillion said he heard screams coming from inside, but the fire was so intense there was little firefighters could do.
"There was one person we saw, who they wanted to save, but he was on the top floor, and with the fire and the wind they weren't able to come any closer."
Marielle Marquis, president of another local seniors home, said she went to the scene to see if she could help.
Outside in the cold, she spoke with one woman whose parents had recently moved into La Résidence du Havre.
"She said, 'I didn't move my parents into this place for them to burn.' But I told her, 'Don't feel guilty, this was an accident; things happen.'"
Resident set to celebrate turning 100
Robert Bérubé raced to L’Isle-Verte from Laval upon hearing news of the fire.
His mother, who was set to celebrate her 100th birthday soon, is a resident at the home.
So far, Bérubé said, he hasn’t heard anything about her condition.
"It's so cruel," he said.