Saturday’s good weather may have saved the lives of people who, on a rainy day, would have whiled away the wet hours in Eliot Lake’s Algo Centre Mall. Saturday afternoon a section of the mall roof suddenly gave way. Now neighbors keep watch as the search goes on in the town of about 11,500 people, a seven-hour drive northwest of Toronto.
Workers have been working around the clock to stabilize the section of collapsed roof. As the hours tick by, the number of people missing and presumed trapped or dead has continued to fluctuate. As of mid-afternoon Monday, two days after the collapse, the only certainty was that one person was dead, 22 were injured, and many others were still unaccounted for.
CBC interviewed Elliot Lake resident Catherine Timleck-Shaw. She and others have been keeping vigil near the collapsed structure. “It’s been very devastating to this town,” she said, both in terms of loss of life and the loss of jobs.
The tragic accident follows years of insufficient maintenance. Timleck-Shaw says:
That mall has been leaking since I moved here, and that was 17 years ago. It was nothing to go in and see five buckets all together in the mall, in the Zeller’s, in the hallways, in the bathroom. It was always leaking, and you could see that it was rusty water, that there was damage going on in there.
Mall manager Rhonda Bear told CBC that repair work had been done on the roof over the past twelve months, though not in the area that collapsed. As to what may have caused the roof to give way, Paul Walters, the head of a Toronto company that specializes in structural failures, suggests water and salt may have played a role.
For a mall in snow country, with cars parking on the roof, the combination of water and salt is inevitable. So it is likely Timleck-Shaw’s assessment was right and that the bones of the mall were rusting.
An investigation by a company such as Walters Forensic Engineering will reveal the steps that led up to the structure’s collapse. In the meantime, the instability of the damaged structure continues to hamper rescue efforts.
An eye witness shot the video footage below. The Globe and Mail has posted photos of the accident.
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Photo from eyewitness video on YouTube