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Peter Worthington

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Why Didn't the Elliot Lake Rescue Workers Do Their Jobs?

Posted: 06/27/2012 1:44 pm

It may already be too late to save anyone trapped in roof collapse of the building in the Elliot Lake mall, but rescue attempts have been less than gallant.

Appalling, even.

SLIDESHOW: ELLIOT LAKE MALL COLLAPSE

Even when there was evidence that one or two were alive in the wreckage -- with about 30 people unaccounted for -- decisions were made that conditions were too dangerous for rescuers to attempt anything.

Barely 48 hours after the collapse, rescue efforts were called off -- until Premier Dalton McGuinty intervened and locals vehemently protested.

Good lord! Don't the Emergency Measures people know that rescuers are supposed to risk their lives to save others? Quitting because of danger is like soldiers refusing to fight for fear they might be hurt. One only has to look at various mine disasters around the world -- including the Springhill coal mine disasters in Nova Scotia some 50 years ago -- for examples of heroism by miners risking their lives to save others.

For rescuers to quit, pleading danger to themselves is unseemly. If there'd been a call for volunteers, there'd have been no shortage of applicants in Elliot Lake. They just wouldn't have had the training and expertise of EMO professionals.

Every time there's a serious fire, there's never a shortage of fire fighters who'll risk everything to save victims.

Anyway, we weren't there, so it's perhaps unfair to judge too harshly the reluctance of rescuers to take chances in Elliot Lake.

It's fair to say that post mortems on this roof collapse will be controversial.

Already there are reports of the building's roof leaking for years, and being examined and judged safe for occupants. The roof collapse was an inevitability waiting to happen.

Isn't it interesting that we in Toronto are faced with something mildly similar, with chunks of the Gardiner Expressway periodically falling onto moving cars. Work crews try to repair the damage when concrete falls down, but one has to wonder if someday whole sections of the overpass will crash down on motorists?

Suppose we have a rare earthquake, as in Oakland, California during a World Series baseball playoff? Would the Gardiner Expressway collapse?

Some want the Gardiner torn done, to give better access to the lake front. That ain't going to happen -- can't happen, if one considers the traffic tie up that would prevent commuters entering and leaving the city in an orderly way.

So the band-aid approach will continue.

None of this is consolation for the people of Elliot Lake.

But the reluctance of rescuers to keep at it, is something we've not seen before in Canada or elsewhere. When aircraft disappear over the ocean, or in the north, search and rescue people keep searching long after all reasonable hope has been exhausted. And in a startling number of cases, they find people still alive.

That was the case with the Tsunami-earthquake in Japan, and the earthquake in Haiti. Searching went on long after time had expired and people were found alive.

The Elliot Lake roof collapse occurred Saturday afternoon, and on Monday rescue attempts were officially called off -- until the Premier decreed otherwise.

Even if conditions were too dangerous for rescuers, they should have explored alternatives. Frankly, it's hard to understand why anyone would quit when it was known (or believed) victims were still alive in the wreckage.

Not a very commendable moment.

ELLIOT LAKE MALL COLLAPSE


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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.

 
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