Fire in Old Montreal: Seven people missing, partial demolition planned
Police say the number of missing people rose from six to seven after a massive fire ravaged a historic building in Old Montreal THURSDAY.
Work to partially dismantle the building will begin on Sunday morning, police and firefighters said in an address to the media on Saturday evening.
They believe that victims will be found in the rubble.
The second and third floors of the 15-unit Place d’Youville building will be demolished “stone by stone,” said Montreal Fire Chief Martin Guilbault.
Firefighters have not yet been able to enter the building for safety reasons.
The partial demolition will be done slowly to protect the workers and preserve the heritage of the building, said Guilbault.
Montreal Police Arson Commander Steve Belzil said it was too early to tell if the fire was arson.
The building owner is cooperating with investigators, Belzil said.
FAMILIES FEAR THE WORST
One of those missing is 18-year-old Charlie Lacroix from Terrebonne, just north of Montreal.
Relatives say she was staying with a friend in an Airbnb on the second floor.
“A friend of my daughter’s told us she had been there the night before so we went to the police station and found she had made two calls to 911 within three minutes saying they couldn’t get out because ‘they were no windows in the bedroom,’ said his father Louis-Philippe Lacroix.
“Hearing this news and having to break it to my boy and to people is truly the worst thing going through as a parent,” Lacroix said.
On Saturday, friends and family of the teenager gathered at the site of the fire, where a makeshift memorial has grown.
People have started laying flowers outside the building where a major fire broke out on March 16, 2023. Six people are still missing and authorities fear their bodies are in the rubble. (Olivia O’Malley/CTV News)
“I don’t believe it. I’m in complete denial. I don’t want it to be true. I just want to wake up and have it be a bad dream,” Lacroix’s friend Kelly Ann Seguin said.
Lacroix said authorities have not found her daughter’s body, but members of the Montreal Fire Department (SSIM) and Montreal Police (SPVM) arson squad held a conference to press on Saturday morning and said there could be casualties in the building.
“The information validated in recent hours, from various sources, suggests that there could be victims inside the rubble,” said SIM captain Martin Guilbault.
Among those missing is 75-year-old photographer Camille Maheux, who lived in the building for 30 years.
Two of the nine injured people are still hospitalized at the burns center of the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).
UNAUTHORIZED AIRBNB UNITS
Some of the apartments were Airbnb units, police confirmed on Saturday.
Montreal city bylaws require building owners to acquire a classification certificate for short-term rentals like Airbnb.
Montreal City Councilor Alain Vaillancourt is responsible for public safety, and he said no certificate had been issued for the building in question.
“There is only a certain area here in Ville Marie where you can have Airbnbs on Sainte Catherine [Street]; it’s not one,” Vaillancourt said. “Ville Marie has never received a permit request for an Airbnb here, and there have never been any complaints about an Airbnb in this building.”
Alina Kuzmina and her husband were sleeping in a unit they had rented on Airbnb when the fire broke out.
They escaped by jumping out of a basement window.
“Once I got out of the window, I looked to the right and saw a person who had just jumped out of the window on the second floor,” Kuzmina said.
She says they saw smoke coming through the door but never heard an alarm.
“If the fire alarm had gone off, we probably wouldn’t have had to risk our lives, and we might have had time to salvage more stuff because a lot of our stuff was left in there,” he said. she declared.
Alina Kuzmina and her husband escaped through a basement window as the historic building in Old Montreal caught fire on March 16, 2023. (Credit: Alina Kuzmina)
With files from The Canadian Press.
ctvnews Canada news