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Demolition starts on Elliot Lake mall where two died, others injured

A worker walks by the rubble of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on June 27, 2012. The mayor of Elliot Lake says demolition has begun on the mall where two people died and around 20 were injured when part of its roof collapsed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. - Wrecking crews have begun to demolish the Elliot Lake mall where two people died and around 20 were injured when part of its roof collapsed.

"It's bittersweet," Mayor Rick Hamilton said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press when asked Thursday about reaction to the work in the small northern Ontario town.

"The mall has always had a close relationship to many of the people who lived (and) who were raised here but at the same time it's a fresh start as well. It's left a lot of bad memories and by and large what I'm hearing in the street is it's high time it's been removed from the landscape of Elliot Lake."

City officials expect the work to take between 40 and 60 days.

Rob deBortoli, the town's chief administrative officer, said the demolition crew must follow strict provincial guidelines. Also, because most of the material will be recycled, workers will have to take the time to sort the debris and ensure it is sent to the right place.

"The demolition will be very controlled, meaning that the mall will be dismantled in a systematic, piece-by-piece process and there should not be any risk associated with any of the material from that site making its way out of the property," deBortoli said.

Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 74, were crushed by debris from the Algo Centre mall, which destroyed several of the community's small businesses when the disaster happened on June 23.

The collapse sparked a $30-million lawsuit, an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police and a public inquiry, which is slated to start next month.

The lawsuit names the owners of the mall, the municipality of Elliot Lake and the provincial government.

The lawsuit contends the defendants did not address long-standing complaints about the safety of the mall and did not carry out necessary inspections of the structure.

Owners have said the mall was inspected regularly and no structural deficiencies were found.

Hamilton would not comment Thursday on the state of the lawsuit.

The legal action was filed by the owner of a restaurant in the shopping centre on behalf of victims of the incident. The allegations made in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

Hamilton said he did not know what will happen with the land where the Algo mall was located, saying it's privately owned.

He said its owners had obtained the permits for the demolition.

A new mall is being built in the community.

(By Marie-Michele Sioui in Montreal)


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