Body found, 6 missing after fire at illegal AirBnB in Canada
MONTREAL — The mayor of Montreal pledged Monday to tighten Airbnb regulations as the search for six missing people continues after a fire ripped through a building that included Airbnb units in a historic section of the city where they are. prohibited.
Firefighters initially thought there was one person missing from last Thursday’s blaze in the eastern Canadian city. However, reports later emerged of illegal Airbnb units in the more than 130-year-old building, and authorities updated the number of missing over the weekend to seven – including some from the United States.
Montreal police reported removing a woman’s body from the rubble on Sunday evening.
Montreal Police Insp. David Shane said the six people still missing are from Quebec, Ontario and the United States, adding that investigators have contacted their families. Last Thursday’s fire also injured nine people, two of whom were hospitalized.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the building included illegal Airbnb units as well as an architect’s office. Plante said Airbnb should have required unit owners to provide a permit number from the Quebec provincial government.
“What happened here is a total tragedy,” Plante said. “Clearly, we wouldn’t be in this position if we were dealing with a company that took their responsibilities seriously and told these landlords, ‘You don’t have a certificate, you can’t rent your unit.'” And that would force people who want to act illegally and do not pay taxes not to escape their responsibilities.
Plante, she planned to work with the Quebec provincial government to tighten regulations on short-term rentals.
Airbnb did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Alexandre Bergevin, lawyer for the owner of the building – Emile-Haim Benamor – said on Sunday that Airbnb rentals in the building were not operated by his client but by tenants, adding that measures had been taken to end to this practice.
Montreal Fire Operations Chief Martin Guilbault said firefighters will begin dismantling the building’s second and third floors on Monday.
Shane said the police fire unit used a drone to help locate the body of the woman who was abducted on Sunday.
“The assumption is that there are six other people inside,” Shane said. “The various steps we have taken (suggest) that those people who are still missing are probably in the rubble, unfortunately.”
City officials said Airbnb-style short-term rentals are illegal in the Old Montreal neighborhood where the building is located. The fire took place at the William-Watson-Ogilvie Building, built in 1890, the city said.
Bergevin said in a text message Sunday that the alarm system was replaced in 2019 and is being tested regularly.
Shane said no one has been charged in connection with the fire and the cause is still under investigation.