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Deadly fire at Canada elderly home: Three dead and 30 missing in Quebec

A fire tore through the 52 unit complex in the early hours of the morning

A huge fire at a senior residence complex has left three people dead and at least thirty missing in what fire chiefs are calling "a night from hell".

The blaze broke out at the 52-unit complex at 12.30am ET in L'Isle-Verte, about 140 miles (225 km) northeast of Quebec City.

More than 50 people lived in the building which also housed a social agency, a pharmacy and a hair salon.

"Right now 30 people are missing. Three are confirmed dead," Quebec police spokeswoman Ann Mathieu told a televised briefing.

"That does not necessarily mean 30 people have lost their lives. It's possible that some were relocated with other people. Some might be away with their families," she said.

Police said earlier that nine people had been taken to hospital. Public broadcaster RDI said a further 16 had been transported to other locations.

Several fire departments in the region were called in to help extinguish the blaze, which completely destroyed the building.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted Thursday that his thoughts and prayers go out to the "families and friends of those lost in this morning's horrific fire in L'Isle-Vert."

Mario Michaud, who lives across the street from the building, told local newspaper Info Dimanche he saw smoke after going to the toilet.

"The fire had started on the second floor", he said. I woke up my girlfriend and called 911. I saw the firefighters and they got to work. A woman on the second floor was shouting and she went out on to the balcony. Her son went to get a ladder but he couldn't get to her. She burned to death."

Local chief firefighter Yvon Charron described the incident as "a night from hell." Authorities are still trying to determine the exact number of victims and learn the cause of the blaze.

Additional reporting by agencies