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Quebec Crews Pick Through Remains of Charred Senior Home

Exhausted crews in Quebec on Saturday resumed their search through the remains of a senior home destroyed by a fire that killed eight residents and left dozens missing.

"The conditions are very, very difficult,” police spokesman Lt. Guy Lapointe said in a televised briefing Friday. “Our people are exhausted.”

Crews took a break on Friday night, their first since the Thursday morning fire ripped through the Residence du Havre home in the small community of L’Isle-Verte, about 140 miles northeast of Quebec City. Working on 45-minute shifts because conditions were too cold to go longer, they had been using steam machines to melt thick ice covering the corpses of some of those killed.

Police now say eight people died in the fire and an additional 24 were unaccounted for. Those missing might not all be casualties, police said, because it was unclear how many of the residents were in the building when the fire broke out.

Few people in town of less than 1,500 were untouched by the tragedy, CBC News reported.

Alphonse Gagnon, who lives across the street from the home, told the Canadian broadcaster that he and his wife, Yvette Michaud, knew many of the residents.

Gagnon said they saw a glow coming through some of the windows on Thursday morning.

“It was hard to look at. Everything was on fire ... I can’t even talk about it,” he told the CBC.

Officials said they did not know what caused the fire, and Lapointe asked residents and witnesses to hand over any videos or photographs taken after the fire broke out shortly after Wednesday midnight.

The disaster raised demands that Quebec make it mandatory for senior homes to be equipped with sprinkler systems. Only a part of the Residence du Havre had sprinklers, Reuters reported.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.