L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec (AP) -- Using steam to melt the ice, investigators searched the frozen-over ruins of a retirement home Friday for victims of a fire that left at least eight people dead and about 30 missing.

The tragedy cast such a pall over the village of 1,500 that psychologists were sent door to door.

The cause of the blaze that swept through the three-story building early Thursday was under investigation, and police asked the public for any videos or photos that might yield clues.

Witnesses told horrific tales of people trapped and killed by the flames. Many of the at least 50 residents were over 85 and used wheelchairs or walkers. Some had Alzheimer's.

The spray from firefighters' hoses left the senior citizens home resembling a macabre snow palace, the ruins encased in thick white ice dripping with icicles.

Search teams of police, firefighters and coroners slowly and methodically picked their way through, working in shifts in the extreme cold about 140 miles northeast of Quebec City.

The afternoon temperature was about 3 degrees.

The confirmed number of dead climbed to eight with the discovery of three more bodies.

Quebec Provincial Police Lt. Guy Lapointe said exhausted investigators would suspend the search overnight and resume Saturday morning. He said authorities decided to give the search crew a break from the brutal cold and the difficult work.


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The work is specialized, and there is a limited number of people who can be assigned to the task, he said.

"The decision was taken that it was better for the safety, for the well-being of our crew, to let them rest," Lapointe said. "Meanwhile, we're looking at bringing in more equipment for the steam."

Agnes Fraser's 82-year-old brother, Claude, was among the missing. She said she knew she would never see him again because he lived in the section of the building destroyed by the flames.

"It's done," Fraser said.

Quebec Minister of Social Services Veronique Hivon said many of the village's volunteer firefighters had relatives at the retirement home. She said psychologists will be knocking on doors throughout the community.

"People are in a state of shock," she said. "We want them to know the services are there by going door to door. It's an important building that's a part of their community that just disappeared."

Hivon said the home was up to code and had a proper evacuation plan. A Quebec Health Department document indicates the home which has operated since 1997, had only a partial sprinkler system.