Can’t save the day, with red tape delay
From Elliot Lake Saturday the news broke - a mall roof had partially collapsed, burying an unknown number of people. In the days following, the number of possible victims under the rubble rose to 30 as family of missing loved ones called police, and Parry Sound’s former OPP detachment chief and current East Algoma OPP Insp. Percy Jollymore added their names to the growing list of possible victims.
The search effort for survivors began. On Monday, officials said there was a good chance there was one survivor. But on Tuesday the search was called off for the safety of searchers and special equipment was brought in to secure the site.
Finally, Wednesday morning, sniffer dogs and their handlers moved in, but despite waiting ambulances and a news conference hinting at a good sign of finding someone alive, two bodies were pulled from the wreckage.
The roof collapse at Elliot Lake brought into the spotlight the federal government’s plan to cut its share of funding for emergency relief teams nationally, opting instead to leave the provinces with the whole bill.
The emergency also highlighted the amount of red tape here. Caller after caller took to the national airwaves Wednesday and said enough wasn’t done for the people of Elliot Lake. Callers were particularly upset about the decision to halt the rescue, blaming paper pushers for not letting ground crews decide whether a situation was safe and pointed to search and rescue efforts in countries less wealthy than Canada where workers, neighbours and family members dig in with bare hands, pulling out their loved ones.
Those outside the mall, one newspaper reported, some of whom worked in the mining industry, volunteered to continue the halted search effort. One man, the article went on, had respirators and other equipment packed and ready. The volunteers weren’t let in.
Now, with the search effort complete and cleanup underway, Premier Dalton McGuinty was at the mall Wednesday and promised a thorough review of the response to the tragedy.
Safety is a great concern. No one wants to see a tragedy compounded with the death or injury of first-responders. On the other hand though, the heartache for those in Elliot Lake watching, with the search called off after learning there were signs someone was alive under all that rubble, must have been unbearable.
After all, when a house is on fire - firefighters runs in to save the day; when a person is threatening the life of another - police officers come to the rescue; when someone is injured - paramedics come and save a life; and when there’s a large disaster emergency response teams arrive to save the day, or do they?