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Updated: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:07:11 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Fire at seniors' residence in L'Isle-Verte leaves 3 dead, 30 missing

Firefighters are battling a fire in L'Isle-Vert, Que. Infodimanche.com / François Drouin

Firefighters are battling a fire in L'Isle-Vert, Que. Infodimanche.com / François Drouin

Three people are dead and 30 people are unaccounted for after an overnight fire broke out at a seniors' residence in L'Isle-Verte, Que.

Firefighters said they received a call shortly after 12:30 a.m. ET from La RésidenceduHavre on Quai Street in the small community east of Rivière-du-Loup. 

Between 50 and 60 people live at the residence and several were taken into safety of the Red-Cross.

About 20 people have been injured and taken to local hospitals in Rivière-du-Loup and Quebec City. Other people who were not injured were taken to a nearby school.

Quebec provincial police Sgt. Audrey-Annie Bilodeau said emergency crews are still in rescue mode, as they search for the missing residents. 

“We hope for the best,” she said. “We hope that the number is going to go down.”

About 1,500 people live in the rural town of L'Isle-Verte. Several nearby homes were evacuated.

'It wasn't a normal house fire'

Witness Pascal Fillion, who 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.

"When I woke up it had already started ... 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.

She said 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.'"

The Sûreté du Québec has announced a ban on any flights over the fire zone.

The fire is now out, but images show a demolished building, with little more than a frame left behind in some places. 

The extreme cold weather is complicating the work of emergency crews, officials said, as the temperature was about –19 C.

Family members looking for more information can call 418-868-1000 or toll free at 1-800-659-4264.

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