At least six people are considered missing and may still be in the rubble following a major fire that raged through a historic building in Old Montreal on Thursday morning, emergency officials said at a conference in press on Saturday.
Investigators initially said one person was missing after the fire.
Montreal fire operations chief Martin Guilbault said recently confirmed reports from various sources led them to conclude that more people were trapped inside when the fire broke out before 6 a.m. Thursday morning.
Nine people, including three seriously injured, were taken to hospital on Thursday. On Saturday, two of them are still being treated in the burns unit.
Steve Belzil, commander of the Montreal police arson squad, said he could not provide any information about the identity of these people, including whether or not they were residents of the building or of people who had rented space there on Airbnb, for example.
Firefighters have not yet been able to safely enter the three-story building at the intersection of Place d’Youville and Rue Saint-Nicolas in order to investigate.
The authorities are therefore unable to determine the cause of the fire, but for the moment, there is no talk of arson.
“(The case) was transferred (to the police’s arson department) because we have reason to believe that there are victims, deaths,” Belzil explained.
This weekend, specialists will help the fire department prepare how they can enter the building to investigate the origins of the fire and search for those still missing “while trying to preserve the heritage building”, a said Guilbault.
Emergency officials say it may take days or even weeks to determine the cause of the fire.
In a tweet, Alain Vaillancourt, Montreal’s executive committee member responsible for public safety, said these are “extremely difficult times” and his heart goes out to the families of those missing.
These are extremely trying hours for the families of those who are missing. I wholeheartedly agree with them.
The @SPVM and the SIM are making every effort to find answers to the questions that remain unanswered. #polmtl