Amid disaster in Elliot Lake, an inexcusable lack of action – by Rosie Dimanno (Toronto Star- June 27, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

People buried alive — apparently, hopefully, still alive — you’d think heaven and earth would be moved to save them.

But moving a heap of wreckage from a collapsed building was inexplicably, outrageously, deemed too risky for rescue workers in Elliot Lake, who were ordered to abandon the mission a mere 48 hours after the Algo Centre Mall caved in.

Only the intervention of Premier Dalton McGuinty rebooted rescue efforts following howls of indignation from local citizens whose loved ones are still trapped under the rubble. “Nobody left behind!” shouted one furious resident when word filtered through that crews were standing down. In a mining town like Elliot Lake, this gospel is well understood: Searches are never suspended, whether proof of life exists or not.

Yet by late Tuesday afternoon, those workers had not yet been cleared by officials to resume the job. In a crisis where minutes literally matter, this is simply insupportable. It is the antithesis of rapid response.

When the belatedly reversed decision was made by authorities on Monday, at least one individual was believed to be still breathing, workers reporting they could hear a tap-tap-tap from within the debris, surely a plea for help: I’m here, I’m alive.

Amidst calamity, Canada has shown itself, shockingly, to be worse than a Third World country, sluggish, confused and entangled in red tape: No deployment of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), the elite Canadian military unit dispatched around the world when disaster strikes; a palpable lack of coordination between levels of government and departments within them; an astonishing inability to react with alacrity when time is of the essence.

Last night, there had still been no request to Ottawa for DART to be dispatched, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offer to get the armed forces involved. DART cannot mobilize unless they receive a formal request for assistance and they hadn’t been asked. The province claims it has the situation in hand but clearly does not. While officials were congratulating each other for the “brave” efforts of emergency responders — doing a whole bunch of nothing — the paralysis in Elliot Lake had all the earmarks of incompetence and territorial protection.

When the mall suddenly buckled and yielded on Saturday afternoon, a call was placed almost immediately to Emergency Management Ontario, which, in turn, summoned the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team, a multi-service and multi-skilled rapid response unit in Toronto, one of a half-dozen such specializing teams situated across the country. That call came in around 5 p.m. and the team was on the move within a few hours, traveling by road to Elliot Lake.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1217714–dimanno-amid-disaster-in-elliot-lake-an-inexcusable-lack-of-action?bn=1

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