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6 missing after Old Montreal fire 'probably still in the rubble': Police

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Officials are still looking for victims after a fire ripped through a building in Old Montreal last week, killing at least one person.

At a press conference Monday morning, spokespersons for the Montreal police (SPVM) and Montreal fire department (SIM) said six people are still missing. They come from various locations in Quebec, Ontario and the U.S.

"These people still missing are probably still in the rubble, unfortunately," said SPVM inspector David Shane.

Rescuers extracted one body from the building around 6:45 p.m. on Sunday. Officials could not confirm the victim's identity Monday morning but revealed she was a woman. 

Police also confirmed that two of the nine people transported to hospital last week remain in the burn unit at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. 

Dismantlement of the building's second and third floors will begin on Monday.

Shane said the operation is relatively slow-going because of safety hazards.

"The work is hard and will continue for many days," he said.

"Our hearts go out to the families and we will never give up."

LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: How do firefighters tackle a fire like the one in Old Montreal?

Investigators survey the scene following a fire in Old Montreal, Sunday, March 19, 2023, that gutted a heritage building. Several people are still unaccounted for. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

UNAUTHORIZED AIRBNBS

In the wake of the fire on Thursday, officials initially believed only one person was missing -- but later learned that several units in the building were short-term rentals, or Airbnbs, making occupants difficult to track.

The city has since confirmed Airbnbs are illegal in the area where the building is located.

A lawyer for the building's owner said Sunday that Airbnbs in the building were being operated by tenants, adding that steps had been taken to stop the practice.

Speaking at another press conference Monday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante acknowledged the issue of illegal Airbnbs in the city.

She said part of the problem is a lack of inspectors, adding that an inspection into an illegal short-term rental is only triggered when a complaint is lodged.

The solution will require collaboration between Montreal, Quebec, and especially Airbnb, Plante said, claiming the latter need to do more to ensure its users comply with the law.  

"To do more is definitely on the table," she said. 

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