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Montreal fire officials say at least six people are missing after a blaze engulfed a building in the city’s historic district on Thursday.
Investigators initially said one person was believed to be missing in the fire, which also injured nine others.
“Information confirmed over the past few hours from various sources allows us to believe that there may be victims inside the wreckage,” Martin Guilbault, head of Montreal fire operations, said Saturday.
The cause of the fire is unknown, and Guilbeault told reporters that the investigation is being led by the Montreal Police Arson Squad.
Massive fire breaks out in building in Old Montreal
Massive fire in Old Montreal, 9 taken to hospital, at least 1 missing
During the evacuation, six people had to be evacuated from the three-storey building using ladders.
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On Saturday, firefighters were still unable to enter the building that houses an architectural firm and residences.
“At this time, it is not possible to conduct a secure search in the building, which must first be secured,” Guilbault said.
“Over the weekend, officers will work on a response plan to allow our teams to conduct a safe search while trying to preserve the heritage structure,” he said.
Montreal police arson commander Steve Belzil said investigators are focused on gathering information from the occupants of the building. He said that he has already met those admitted in the hospital.
“As you know, the site is not accessible to start our investigation, so a drone allowed us to go and get the images,” Belzil said.
Belzil was not able to confirm whether the six missing were tenants of the building or tourists staying in short-term rentals.
“Right now, we are not talking about arson. It was transferred (to the police) because we have reason to believe that there are victims, deaths,” Belzil explained.
In total, 130 firefighters responded to contain the fire from spreading.
Montreal Fire Chief Richard Liebman said Thursday there was some confusion about how many people were inside the Old Montreal building at the time of the fire, as many of the apartments were Airbnb rentals.
© 2023 The Canadian Press