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Worried Elliot Lake residents keep vigil near mall

Roger Legacy leans against a tree, staring at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. on June 26 2012 where one person has been declared dead and another trapped, but can't confirm condition.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

As rescue operations at a collapsed mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., entered their fourth night, about 250 frustrated residents kept vigil nearby, desperate for news of any survivors.

Sitting in lawn chairs and standing beneath umbrellas, they watched on Tuesday as truckloads of heavy machinery sent by governments and private companies arrived in the small Northern Ontario town to aid the stalled rescue operations. The loud scrape of metal against concrete could be heard throughout the afternoon as rescuers worked to remove the rubble without causing further damage.

Dan Hefkey, commissioner of community safety for the province of Ontario, said rescue crews would work through the night using a Komatsu PC 850 long-arm crane to remove the fallen concrete.

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The mall collapsed Saturday afternoon when a rooftop parking lot crashed through two floors, killing at least one person and trapping at least one more. As many as12 others are considered missing, revised down from 30.

Near the scene, people spoke in hushed tones about the rescue efforts, but few were willing to share the names of people they feared might be trapped in the rubble.

Elliot Lake resident Rosario Capillo handed out bottled water to people near the site. Mr. Capillo said he bought a lottery ticket last Saturday from a woman who is now feared to be dead in the rubble. He said they joked about the ticket being a winner before he left the mall around 11 a.m.

Another resident, 17-year-old Patrick McDonald, stayed near the mall until 3 a.m. Tuesday, saying "people inside and outside need support."

Elliot Lake deputy mayor Al Collett visited the scene on Tuesday morning, removing his baseball cap and observing a moment of silence beside the candles and notes spread out along the mall's perimeter.

Joanne Graham said she has visited the site of the mall every day since the collapse. Stopping by Tuesday afternoon with her two young children, she says the town's only mall was the "community hub" for people like her 84-year-old grandfather, who was at the centre last Saturday but left before the rooftop parking garage caved in.

"For a lot of seniors and teenagers, it was the only place to go," she says.

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