The Algo Centre Mall’s Collapse

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The Algo Centre Mall collapsed at around 2 P.M on June 23, 2012, and brought the nation and the local community to a standstill. The collapse led to the death of two women and the injury of around 19 other individuals. Rescue operations commenced immediately but had to be halted due to concerns about the safety of the rescuers. The mall was deeply embedded in the local community as it served multiple purposes, including housing several government offices and facilities, a retirement home, and many businesses and its closure led to high economic and social costs. The official inquiry into the disaster revealed that the mall leaked from the day it was built, acquiring the name “Algo Falls” in the process, and its collapse was caused by rust, but the failure could be traced back to negligence.

Disaster Discovery and Response

Indeed, Algo Centre Mall’s sudden collapse was due to human fault. A public inquiry into the disaster determined that many of the officials and professionals attached to the mall could have prevented it by pointing out and following up on obvious failures (Cavaco et al., 2017). The disaster was caused by the rash ruin of a portion of the roof deck, and all authorities responded promptly to the mall’s destruction, with the first action being an immediate evacuation of all present people by staff.

The Elliot Lake Fire Department arrived at the scene and shut off the building’s hydro, water, and gas, and other authorities then collaborated with firefighters to clear the building, secure the perimeter, and search for survivors. Later, the city’s mayor, Rich Hamilton, declared a state of emergency before the city deployed the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team (HUSAR) to aid rescue efforts. Unfortunately, the rescue efforts were suspended a day later, on June 25, due to concerns about the risk of secondary collapses (Winfield, 2018). Authorities resorted to demolishing parts of the structure and clearing obstacles that threatened the safety of rescuers with the help of heavy demolition equipment. Three days later, on June 28, the premier announced an upcoming inquiry into the incident before the mall’s demolition started on January 2013 (Winfield, 2018). However, it is important to note that officially the destruction began later.

With all that, the response was mired by friction in communication and collaboration among the different authorities. One such incident was Inspector Percy Jollymore’s decision to order a helicopter pilot to take pictures of the scene without consulting with the Chief Officer, the top authority on the incident (Winfield, 2018). The helicopter caused the hanging beam to sway dangerously, threatening further collapse. Further challenges involved technology, as the different teams lacked the communication devices that would have smoothened the rescue operations.

Disaster Impact and Aftermath

The mall’s collapse dealt a massive blow to Elliot Lake’s economy. Many of the city’s retail shops were destroyed, together with its library, government offices, and other businesses, including a gym, a hotel, and a grocery store (Nastar & Liu, 2019). The mall also acted as a hub for the community, and its loss meant far-reaching economic consequences. The mall housed all levels of business, from small retailers to established brands, so its closure meant a significant reduction in economic activity. Estimates by city authorities stated that around 250 people lost their jobs due to the collapse (Stewart, 2017). That means that many of these individuals experienced financial difficulties as they looked for alternative means of generating income.

Other costs attached to the collapse include a lawsuit by several families looking for damages, financial help afforded to affected businesses, insurance payouts, and the loss of a number of crucial services the mall offered. For instance, members of the community had to travel to other communities like Sudbury to acquire products and services, adding to the overall cost of the disaster. Thus, the small community lost a gathering center, a place to get essential products and services, and a socializing hub (Winfield, 2018). The lost productivity also dealt a huge blow to the city’s recovery efforts from the closure of its uranium mines.

The community had established itself around retirement living and other activities but now had to do the same thing over again and recuperate from the loss of its largest shopping complex (Stewart, 2017). Another significant impact was the emotional loss of the community. The small city felt an overwhelming sense of loss due to the injury of several individuals and the loss of two of them. The country as a whole came to a standstill as the horrible news shocked all citizens.

Discussion and Conclusion

The disaster taught all stakeholders several important lessons. Commissioner Paul Belanger made a report on the collapse that featured a number of recommendations based on the lessons. The collapse pointed to a severe lack in Ontario’s building inspection system. The city’s authorities failed to make timely interventions because of operating in a system that favored negligence and complacency. The rust that led to the building’s collapse was a result of human error because complaints about leaking water had been made ever since the building became operational. In addition, the city learned that it had poor maintenance standards and follow-up processes (Cavaco et al., 2017). In response to that, the commissioner recommended a province-wide minimum maintenance standard and regular and proper inspection of buildings.

The sudden collapse exposed the extreme influence parties with a vested interest in buildings under inspection had over the whole process. These parties, like building owners, had a big influence on the thoroughness and scope of inspections, undermining the whole process when it suited them (Winfield, 2018). Stakeholders also learned that inspection reports and related information needed to be easily accessible by all interested parties, be it the public or oversight authorities (Stewart, 2017). The commissioner’s recommendations touched on all these areas, and the city promptly made the necessary changes and implemented the needed systems. The city learned that its engineers, inspectors, and other personnel needed advanced training and went on to create the necessary programs and courses to that end. Today all city employees receive the training they need to perform their duties optimally and ensure few failures.

The collapse of the Algo Centre Mall came suddenly and at a time when the city of Elliot Lake was still in recovery from its history of booms and busts. The failure that caused the disaster was due to rust from persistent leaks from the roof, but it got to such a level because of human fault. The city responded promptly to the collapse, although the process was mired by communication difficulties and a lack of resources. In the end, the city learned that it needed several changes to its systems and operations.


Cavaco, E. S., Bastos, A., & Santos, F. (2017). Effects of corrosion on the behaviour of precast concrete floor systems. Construction and Building Materials, 145, 411-418.

Nastar, N., & Liu, R. (Eds.). (2019). Failure Case Studies: Steel Structures. American Society of Civil Engineers.

Stewart, A. (2017). Coming Back from Disaster: Progress to Date and Next Steps at Elliot Lake Public Library. Public Library Quarterly, 36(3), 228-243.

Winfield, M. (2018). Justice Denied: Why was there no public inquiry into the Lac-Mégantic Disaster?. Revue générale de droit, 48, 131-154.

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