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Police find 2 more bodies at site of Old Montreal fire; first victim identified

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The death toll from last week's massive fire in Old Montreal has risen to four, Montreal police confirmed.

Julien Levesque, a police spokesperson, said Wednesday evening that two more bodies were retrieved from the historic building that went up in flames last Thursday. The bodies will be sent to a laboratory to be formally identified. Details about their ages or sexes have not been released.

An update from police and fire officials is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday.

Police had found the remains of the first victim Sunday night and identified her during a news conference earlier Wednesday as 76-year-old Camille Maheux. The renowned photographer, whose work has been featured in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, had lived in the building for approximately 30 years.

Police notified her family before making the news public, Insp. David Shane told reporters.

"On behalf of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal and the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal, and all those involved in the management of this event, we wish to express our most sincere condolences to the family," Shane said.

"Our hearts go out to you."

A second body was found Tuesday evening but has not yet been identified. At least three people are believed to be missing, but police acknowledged there could be more.

Rescuers are slowly but surely combing through the historic building at the corner of Port Street and Place d'Youville, which was built in 1890 and housed multiple illegal Airbnb units at the time of the fire.

Airbnb rentals are not allowed in the area where the building is located.

Authorities have not confirmed how many of the missing people were tourists but said victims were from Quebec, Ontario and the United States.

Speaking at an early morning press briefing, officials reiterated that the building's current state makes it unsafe for rescuers to enter on foot.

"That's why technicians will focus Wednesday on removing debris that poses a "secondary collapse risk," including two chimneys, explained fire operations chief Martin Guilbault.

Firefighters enter the building as they continue the search for victims Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at the scene of last week’s fire that left one person dead and six people missing in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

So far, strategic dismantling, crane exploration and camera probing have allowed investigators to peer under the third floor; but what lies below is harder to uncover.

"Some parts of the buildings are more collapsed than the others," Guilbault added.

The fire also injured nine, including two in critical condition. Families of the victims have been agonizing over the length of time that has passed since the fire as they wait for information about their loved ones.

Montreal police Insp. David Shane speaks to reporters about an update in the investigation about the fatal Old Montreal fire on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (CTV News)

Shane said the period between locating and extracting a body can take hours, depending on its location.

"When they locate a body, then they will need to have an action plan to approach it and be able to conduct their work," he said.

Several family members have come forward and identified their missing loved ones.

So far, they are Charlie Lacroix, 18, Saniya Khan, 31, Dania Zafar, 31, and An Wu, 31.

With files from The Canadian Press

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