WATCH ABOVE: Emergency investigators are still gathering evidence to determine what caused the fire
L’ISLE-VERTE, Que. – A burning cigarette is just one of the possible causes of the deadly blaze in a seniors’ residence in eastern Quebec, police said Saturday.
Some media reported Friday that a smoker at the residence in L’Isle-Verte caused the fire, which killed eight people and has left another 24 presumed dead.
“What’s been said is one hypothesis among many,” Quebec provincial police Lt. Guy Lapointe told a news conference.
WATCH: Search crews and investigators spent Friday trying to break through the ice that covers the charred remains of the Résidence du Havre de L’Isle-Verte seniors complex. Jennifer Tryon reports.
“When you conduct an investigation of this magnitude, you have to determine all the facts and not simply just one or two in order to achieve a conclusion.
“For us, there are still many hypotheses on the table.”
While the official death toll remained at eight from the previous update on Friday, the number of those missing was revised downward to 24 from about 30.
But Lapointe wasn’t holding out much hope for those whose remains have not yet been found.
“I think we can all agree here today that the 24 people who are still missing, I think we can assume the worst,” he said. “But we’re not going to confirm any deaths until we’ve actually recovered the remains.”
Frigid temperatures continued to hamper the search, with Lapointe saying the ice in certain places was as thick as 60 centimetres.
“So you can imagine how difficult it is to go through the ice, melt it, and do it in a way that we preserve the integrity of potential victims,” he said. “So it’s very difficult work again today. It’s very cold.”
To speed up proceedings, equipment that pushes out very hot air and is normally used to de-ice ships has been brought in.
A coroner’s official told the news conference that two of the victims have been formally identified and that their names would be released later on Saturday.
Genevieve Guilbault explained the procedure for officially releasing the names of the deceased.
“When a victim is formally identified by the coroner, we always inform the family first,” she said.
“Then we wait, out of respect and courtesy for them, 24 hours before we give the information to the public and to the media.”
A mass is scheduled at the church in L’Isle-Verte on Sunday afternoon.
Priest Gilles Frigon described it as an event where residents can gather and share their grief. He has invited loved ones to bring photos of the deceased and the missing.
The mass will be a simple one, with Frigon saying he wants to give first responders the opportunity to express their suffering.
“It will be family-oriented and intimate, so that in this tragic event we’re going through, we can find ourselves and rebuild our hearts,” Frigon said.
“It will be about the grief of people who are affected by the loss of their father, their mother, their grandfather, their grandmother, their great-grandfather and their great-grandmother.”
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has said she will visit L’Isle-Verte on Sunday, but it is unclear whether she will attend the mass.
A more official commemorative ceremony featuring dignitaries has been set for Saturday, Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross announced Saturday it has raised $200,000 for the community. The money will go to various things like eyeglasses, furniture and clothing.