Search and rescue teams working in treacherous conditions in the darkness have suspended for the time being the hunt for two workers likely buried in the rubble following a landslide at a quarry near l'Épiphanie, Que., 50 kilometres north of Montreal this morning.
Late this afternoon, crews were able to clear away enough rock and clay to peer inside the cabin of one of the buried trucks, but found it empty, prompting police to wonder if the driver was ejected from the heavy vehicle when it tumbled as much as 100-metres down the rock face.
Rescuers have been unable to reach the second truck's cabin.
"Obviously we're trying to get to it," said Quebec provincial police Sgt. Benoît Richard. "Where the trucks are, the ground is extremely hard, so it's very tough for our police officers on the scene to search through it."
Early this evening, the search team was still awaiting the arrival of a giant crane or other heavy equipment to help in lifting the trucks, although search coordinators were still trying to work out how to get that equipment down to the site.
Richard said the terrain is extremely unstable, and searchers also have to worry about the risk of further landslides.
Geologists and landslide experts are among those being consulted in the rescue operation, which Richard said so far, involves at least 100 people, both on and off the site.
There is a risk of freezing rain in the area, and police said that could hamper search-and-rescue efforts.
Helicopters involved in the effort are able to work through the night, Richard said, but they would have to be called off in the event of freezing rain.
Police and company officials are due to give another update at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The quarry belongs to Maskimo Construction Inc., however police said the two missing workers are sub-contractors. Police have not released the names or ages of those missing, except to say they are a man and a woman.
Quebec provincial police and firefighters responded to the emergency call at 10:45 a.m. today, from people who were working at the gravel pit.
Police were able to airlift one person out of the pit by helicopter.
The man, who was driving a loader, was not seriously injured. He was taken to hospital to be treated for shock and effects from exposure to the cold.
Police helicopters lowered search-and-rescue teams to the rocky terrain below, including a sniffer dog team and a firefighter with thermal camera, to scan for heat from the bodies of possible survivors.
"It's kind of a risky, tough situation that we have right now," Richard said late this afternoon.