ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. - Police say at least nine people remain unaccounted for in a labyrinth of twisted metal and heavy concrete slabs after the roof collapsed at a mall in the northern Ontario city of Elliot Lake.

But Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Percy Jollymore insisted Sunday that number was fluctuating as some of those reported as missing had been located and others — who hadn't been heard from — were added to the list.

"The problem with this is there's no precise science, we don't know who was in the mall when it collapsed," said Jollymore. "We won't stop until the list has been satisfied."

Meanwhile, a rescue official said at least two people were trapped in the rubble as crews worked around the clock to stabilize the scene.

Officials suspect one of those imprisoned "could be a casualty," but they said it would take until early Monday morning before the structure was deemed safe enough for search and rescue teams to go in.

Provincial police said images of the partially collapsed roof at the Algo Centre Mall, which served as a parking lot, showed a hand and a foot in the dusty debris.

"We have obtained some visual information relating to a visual of a hand and a foot which is our grounds for the suspected casualty in this case, we cannot confirm the identity," said Jollymore.

"The location is such that we cannot approach it at this time."

Officials also said they heard some taps coming from behind fallen slabs of concrete and metal.

"Some of our search members this morning heard a couple of taps," said Bill Needles, a spokesman from the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team which travelled from Toronto.

"They called for a quick silence on the site and there was a couple more taps. That was an indication to us that we were dealing with a rescue," he said.

"We then turned our whole efforts towards trying to locate this individual. There was no verbal, there was no sight, we have no idea if it's male, female, what age, it was just a tap."

Needles said crews drilled through a wall in an attempt to locate the victim but weren't able to find anyone. At that point crews decided the site was too unstable to send in rescue workers.

The operation is still a rescue mission, though, and officials said they were still hoping to find people alive.

"We're believing that they're still there and still alive," Needles said.

The roof of the mall came crashing down through two floors just before 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. The collapse left a gaping hole about 12 metres by 24 metres, downed hydro lines and it triggered a gas leak.

Two kiosks selling lottery tickets, cigarettes and magazines were located in the area where the roof caved in and were open before the incident, eyewitnesses said.

By Saturday evening, hope mingled with frustration in the close-knit community as residents waited anxiously for news.

"There's a fair amount missing," said Heather Richer, who owns a restaurant in the mall and was at work when the collapse occurred.

"I'm hoping everyone's found, but I'm giving up hope on whether they're going to find them alive."

Richer, who was particularly concerned about an acquaintance who was unaccounted for, described Saturday's thunderous collapse as a nightmare.

"It was almost like a little mini earthquake, like a big bang, and then gone," she said. "There was nothing there. Everything started to cave in, water was pouring out of the pipes."

The two-storey centre, which was built in the early 80s, underwent a structural study in May and received a passing grade, said a source with Eastwood Mall Inc., which owns the mall.

Work was being done on the roof before the collapse to prevent leaks, but no "substantial renovations" were underway, the source said.

Work to re-seal the surface of the roof was, however, planned for the near future.

As emergency crews continued to scrutinize the scene on Sunday, some irate residents in the city, which in recent years has become a popular retirement destination, said the mall, while a bustling community hub, was an older building much in need of repairs.

"The mall's always had leaks (and) roof damage," said Jean-Marc Hayward, who was in the mall at the time of the collapse.

"There's a spot near the food court where there (was) a hole in the ceiling and you could see the beams and they're all rusted."

Hayward, who heard and felt a loud rumble moments before the roof crumbled, said the ceiling of the mall always dripped when it rained.

"I used to say, 'One of these days, a car's going to come through there'... it finally gave way, I guess," he said. "I'm still shaken up about it."

The owners of the mall travelled to Elliot Lake soon after the incident to offer support to the community.

"To those who have been injured, to those families of missing individuals, we offer our deepest sympathies," said Levon Nazarian, whose father, Richard Nazarian, owns the mall.

"We are, and will be co-operating with the authorities to provide them with any helpful resources that are at our disposal."

Police continued to urge anyone worried about missing loved ones to check in at an information centre where police are tracking those who are unaccounted for. Vicars and crisis councillors were on hand.

Concern for the community poured in Sunday, with political leaders pledging their support.

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.

"During a crisis like this, I am reminded of the strength and resilience of Northern Ontarians, and how by pulling together with our friends, families and neighbours, we can get through these difficult times."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was inspired to see the community of roughly 11,000 pull together during the crisis.

"There will be time soon to examine what happened and why, but right now our priority has to be protecting people's lives and health and ensuring the immediate disaster relief this community needs," she said in a statement.

The mall houses a grocery store, restaurants, a number of retail outlets and the constituency office for NDP legislature member Michael Mantha. A hotel is also attached to the centre, which is the largest mall in Elliot Lake.

The city — once an Ontario mining hub — is located about 160 kilometres west of Sudbury.

— By Diana Mehta in Toronto, with files from Paola Loriggio.

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  • Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, left, greets people of the community of Elliot lake after speaking at a press conference regarding the rescue and recovery of two bodies at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapse last Saturday. During his address to a small crowd of rescue workers and local officials, McGuinty said his thoughts were with the family of the two female victims, whom he identified as Dolores and Lucie.

  • The Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, remains unstable as efforts continue on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapse last Saturday. Officials recovered two bodies after dismantling a piece of a partially collapsed Ontario shopping mall on Wednesday and said they are confident no other victims are inside. The renewed rescue effort came after angry residents shouted down fears that the unstable structure made the work too risky to continue.

  • Firefighters, left, carry a second body out of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday. Officials recovered two bodies after dismantling a partially collapsed Ontario mall on Wednesday and said they don

  • Rescue workers remove their hard hats as firefighters carry a second body out of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday.

  • Local residents react to the news that rescue workers have recovered a body at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapse last Saturday.

  • Rescue workers wait to access the wreckage of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., early Wednesday, June 27, 2012, as cranes remove debris caused by the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday.

  • Rescue workers watch as a demolition crane tears into part of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Tuesday June 26, 2012. The controlled demolition on Tuesday night was part of a renewed bid to rescue any survivors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • A monument stands at a road entrance as a demolition crane tears into the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Tuesday June 26, 2012. Rescue workers are attempting an new plan to search for survivors after the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • A by-stander reacts as a demolition crane tears into part of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Tuesday June 26, 2012. Residents of Elliot Lake, Ontario watched tensely as a massive robotic arm dismantled the facade of a mall that collapsed over the weekend, trapping at least two people inside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Rescue workers watches a demolition crane as it tears into the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Tuesday June 26, 2012. Rescue workers are attempting an new plan to search for survivors after the mall's roof collapsed last Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • A rescue workers watches as a demolition crane as it tears into part of the Algo Centre Mall, in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Tuesday June 26, 2012. Rescue crews began dismantling a partially collapsed mall late Tuesday night in this northern Ontario city in an effort to rescue victims despite fading hopes of finding anyone alive. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Local residents react to the news that authorities have called off a rescue bid for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, on Monday June 25, 2012 as the site is deemed to dangerous.

  • OPP officers inspect the damage from the roof as rescue workers continue attempts to secure the building before searching for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Monday June 25, 2012.

  • Local residents react to the news that authorities have called off a rescue bid for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, on Monday June 25, 2012 as the site is deemed to dangerous.

  • Missing victim Lucie Aylwin's father Rajean Aylwin (centre left) and boyfriend Gary Gendrom (right) react to the news that authorities have called off a rescue bid for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, on Monday June 25, 2012 as the site is deemed to dangerous.

  • A rescue worker walks towards the emergency staging post as attempts continue to secure the building before searching for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Monday June 25, 2012.

  • Local residents react to the news that authorities have called off a rescue bid for any survivors at the site of the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, on Monday June 25, 2012 as the site is deemed too dangerous.

  • Police form a line outside the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Monday June 25, 2012. According to some residents a large number of miners are due to arrive from Timmins to join a locally planned rescue effort. Officials in Elliot Lake, Ont., say they are resuming rescue efforts at a partially collapsed mall after an appeal from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

  • Police officers talk in front of a emergency services tent next to the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario on Sunday June 24, 2012.

  • A man leans on a columns next to the collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Saturday June 23, 2012.

  • A man leans on a column next to the collapsed roof at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Saturday June 23, 2012.

  • A teddy bear with a handwritten note is seen near the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Sunday June 24, 2012.

  • A woman checks out the damage after a roof collapsed at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., Saturday, June 23, 2012. The partial collapse prompted a local state of emergency and a search for anyone who might have been injured in the cave-in.

  • The roof parking lot of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. is shown on Saturday June 23, 2012.

  • The collapsed roof of the Algo Centre Mall is seen from a nearby hill in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Sunday June 24, 2012.

  • <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLsIqo5aKr8&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">Source: YouTube</a>

  • <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLsIqo5aKr8&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">Source: YouTube</a>

  • Heavy equipment is used in stabilization and rescue efforts at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on Sunday June 24, 2012.

  • Elliot Lake -- once an Ontario mining hub -- is located about 160 kilometres west of Sudbury.