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17 dead and 15 missing in Quebec fire

17 dead and 15 missing in Quebec fireEmergency workers continue the search for victims Saturday, January 25, 2014 in L'Isle-Verte, Que. at the scene of a fatal fire at a seniors residence. Quebec provincial police have raised the death toll in the fire at seniors' residence in L'Isle-Verte to 16 people and say 16 people remain missing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

L'ISLE-VERTE, Que. - Firefighters and police officers, some on their hands and knees, braved bitter cold for yet another day to find more bodies in the rubble of a seniors' home that was engulfed in flames last week.

Quebec provincial police said Tuesday that 17 people are now confirmed dead and 15 remain missing after the blaze that ravaged Residence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte in eastern Quebec early last Thursday.

"We will keep going until all 32 people have been found," said Quebec provincial police Lt. Michel Brunet.

Four people have been formally identified by the coroner's office so far.

Authorities say they are satisfied with the progress of their work during the last six days.

Weather has been a major hurdle, forcing crews to take regular breaks to warm up from the bone-chilling cold.

Special machines also had to be brought in to melt thick ice that coated the ruins after the fire. Police have had to approach the rubble carefully, not just to avoid harming any bodies within the structure but also to preserve evidence that may allow investigators to determine a cause for the blaze.

About 65 per cent of the site has been examined. Brunet said it is difficult to say how long it will take to complete the effort because large hunks of debris have to be removed carefully.

The delicacy of the effort was reflected in the large construction shovels that have been brought in which carefully scratched at the ground to remove rubble.

Smaller tools such as rakes, brooms and spades were also being used by the workers, who also include pathologists from the Quebec coroner's office.

Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Ann Mathieu says the searches are progressing well and about 50 people are combing the rubble of the building in teams.

Earlier Tuesday, media were granted increased access to the remnants of the Residence du Havre to see the efforts in the community about 240 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

Health and social services officials also said six people remain in hospital. Nine others have found new homes and five people are expected to be relocated on Wednesday.

Provincial police also said the public has responded to their requests for any photos or videos taken of the fire and they will begin sifting through them in the coming days.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is among those who are expected to attend a commemorative ceremony in L'Isle-Verte this coming Saturday.

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