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Harper offers military for rescue at mall collapse
Question of the Day
ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario — Canada's prime minister has offered to send the military to help with the rescue effort at a partially collapsed mall in Ontario where at least one person has died and another may still be alive beneath the rubble, officials said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, said in an email that the federal government is still trying to determine how best to help.
"We've offered all of our assets," Mr. MacDougall said. "We've apprised the provincial government of federal and military capabilities and are waiting to hear what would be useful."
Mr. MacDougall said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called Mr. Harper Monday night to inquire about bringing in the military to help.
The offer comes as officials plan to use heavy equipment to dismantle the building from the outside in order to resume rescue efforts stalled over fears that the unstable structure could further collapse, leaving rescuers trapped inside what remains of the mall.
Rescuers detected breathing inside the rubble early Monday, but authorities enraged local residents when they called off the work later that day. One death has been confirmed after part of the mall's roof collapsed Saturday afternoon, and another person was known to be still inside on Tuesday.
Bill Needles, a spokesman for the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team, said the building was not secure enough to send rescue teams back Tuesday but heavy machinery from a private company would be employed over the next few hours.
Mr. Needles said the team would do a controlled dismantling of an escalator that has hampered efforts and then would shear off the front of the mall as they made a path.
"If that's deemed safe, our people will enter and deal with both of the victims that are in there," he said.
Mr. Needles earlier confirmed that one of those people is dead. The other will have been trapped for more than 72 hours.
Mr. Needles said a doctor told them Monday, after they shut down the operation, that there was a very remote chance the person is still alive.
"He was of the opinion that it was probably a very slim possibility," Mr. Needles said.
He said a canine search will be conducted if and when the engineer allows them in the building to see if there are any other victims.
Mr. McGuinty said he wanted to explore the slim odds of a rescue. He said they owe it to the families waiting for word of their loved ones to leave no stone unturned.
"There is another option, and that option involves beginning to dismantle the building from the outside," Mr. McGuinty said, adding that was a very risky operation.
"It's not unlike a house of cards. It might be if you pull away from this wall in an effort to get access to someone who is trapped in there it may cause other things to move and other things to tumble and to crumble," he said.
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