Quebec police say they are working under difficult weather conditions, including heavy rain and cold weather, as the search for a missing three-year-old boy believed to have been abducted by his father from the town of Sainte-Paule, Que., enters its fourth day.
Police believe 36-year-old David Côté abducted his son, Jake, on Tuesday from the area of Sainte-Paule, located on the Gaspé Peninsula about 630 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) said on Friday afternoon that police are not ruling out any possibility, including that Côté left the area with the boy or is working with an accomplice. For now, however, the search has been focused around the Sainte-Paul area, using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles.
Late Thursday, police said they thought the suspect was hiding in a densely forested area, noting that Côté had wilderness survival skills and could be using materials gathered from nearby chalets and trailers to survive with his son.
"He is a guy who knows the forest environment well, who would be able to survive if necessary," SQ Sgt. Claude Doiron said.
Now the frigid, wet conditions are making the search more challenging. Environment Canada has issued rainfall and wind alerts for various areas in the Gaspé region, which are seeing heavy downpours and gusting winds due to remnants of Hurricane Ida.
"Despite the particularly difficult weather conditions here, with rain and cold, police officers are working tirelessly today on the ground," Doiron said.
The original Amber Alert was triggered within an east-west radius of about 300 kilometres around Sainte-Paule, which has fewer than 300 residents and is about 140 kilometres northwest of Campbellton, N.B.
On Friday, Doiron said police widened the territory under alert to include all of New Brunswick. All of Quebec is also under the Amber Alert.
The primary search area is still around Sainte-Paule, where the SQ says support workers with the regional health authority are being sent to offer support to the community, at its request.
"Obviously, the presence of many police officers can be a source of stress for these people, and it is at this level that we will intervene," said a spokesperson for the CISSS du Bas-Saint-Laurent.
Police are advising the public to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary but to stay away from the forest and to avoid taking part in the search because they fear Côté could be armed.
Police are asking residents to call 911 if they notice break-in attempts or missing tools, food or equipment.
Côté is described as five feet, seven inches tall and 180 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, and wearing a dark sweater with a black logo and black military-style pants.
With files from Chloe Ranaldi, The Canadian Press
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