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Monday, March 27, 2023

Seven missing after blaze destroyed Old Montreal building, fire officials say

MONTREAL – Fireplace officers now say a minimum of seven persons are lacking after a blaze destroyed a constructing in Montreal’s historic district Thursday.

Investigators initially mentioned one particular person was believed to be lacking within the fireplace that additionally injured one other 9 folks.

“The data confirmed in the previous few hours, from numerous sources, permits us to consider that there could also be victims contained in the particles,” Montreal fireplace operations chief Martin Guilbault mentioned Saturday.

Guilbault mentioned in a Saturday night information convention that the constructing might be slowly taken down starting Sunday morning.

“We wish to announce tonight that we’re gonna take down this constructing slowly, stone-by-stone, to guarantee that the atmosphere inside right here is protected for all of the folks from the hearth division and the police division to do their work,” mentioned Guilbault.

Greater than a dozen emergency responders have been nonetheless on the scene on Saturday, the place a parameter had been arrange and a part of the road was blocked off. The odor of smoke was nonetheless current within the air.

A memorial of flowers was additionally arrange in entrance of the constructing the place folks stopped to pay their respect as they wiped away tears.

The reason for the hearth stays unknown, Guilbault mentioned, including that the investigation is being led by the Montreal police arson squad.

Fireplace officers mentioned two of the 9 injured folks suffered critical burns and stay in hospital.

Alain Vaillancourt, a member of town of Montreal’s govt committee answerable for public security, mentioned that he had spoken to a number of households with lacking family members who got here to the positioning of the hearth Saturday.

“(The households) suppose perhaps (they) are within the constructing,” Vaillancourt mentioned in an interview. “Now, truthfully, I’m upset by this information. I wish to reassure them that we’re doing the whole lot in our energy in order that the investigation progresses shortly.”

Throughout the evacuation of the three-storey constructing Thursday, six folks needed to be rescued by ladder.

Earlier Saturday, firefighters have been nonetheless unable to enter the constructing that housed an architectural agency and residences.

“Right now, it isn’t doable to conduct a protected search within the constructing, which should first be secured,” Guilbault mentioned.

Montreal police arson commander Steve Belzil mentioned that investigators are centered on gathering data from the individuals who lived within the constructing. He added that they’d already met with the individuals who have been hospitalized.

“As you already know, the positioning just isn’t accessible for us to start out our investigation, so a drone allowed us to go and get pictures,” Belzil mentioned.

Belzil was not capable of verify whether or not the lacking folks have been tenants of the constructing or vacationers staying in a short-term rental.

“Proper now, we’re not speaking about arson. It was transferred (to the police) as a result of we now have motive to consider that there are victims, deaths,” Belzil defined.

In complete, 130 firefighters responded to the hearth to maintain it from spreading.

Montreal fireplace Chief Richard Liebmann mentioned Thursday there was some confusion over how many individuals have been contained in the Outdated Montreal constructing on the time of the hearth, as a result of a number of residences have been Airbnb leases.

Vaillancourt mentioned town has been cracking down on Airbnb leases for a number of years and referred to as it a “downside.”

“On this sector (the positioning of the hearth), it isn’t authorized to have Airbnb leases, however we should look ahead to the investigation to be over to search out out whether or not that was the case right here or not,” he mentioned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed March 18, 2023.

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