The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) announced on Saturday morning that at least seven people were missing following the fire that ravaged a heritage building in Place d’Youville last Thursday. But the toll could be even heavier, according to our information.

Some reports suggest that there could be up to a dozen missing in the rubble of the violent fire that ravaged this heritage building on Thursday. Some missing or presumed missing are tourists or residents of another province, which complicates the situation for the authorities.

These people would have rented apartments in the building on Airbnb-type platforms, which are not authorized in this area of ​​​​the metropolis.

The investigation was transferred to the SPVM arson division on Friday evening. “Information validated in the last hours from various sources allows us to believe that there may be victims inside the rubble”, informed in a press briefing on Saturday Martin Guilbault, head of division at the Fire Safety Service. of Montreal (SIM).

Half a dozen people have so far been identified, said SPVM commander Steve Belzil.

A major fire ravaged a heritage building located on Place d’Youville in Old Montreal on Thursday. Initially, only one person, a 70-year-old woman, was missing.

Since then, “an important work of gathering various information, analysis and validation is under development. Investigators are in particular in contact with families of missing persons, as well as with residents and managers of the building, “said the SPVM in a press release.

The SPVM invites the families and friends of people who may have been in the building to contact 514 280-2222 or go to their local police station.

Saturday morning, the photo of the devastated building shows its shattered windows, and a charred interior. The SIM will continue to assist the SPVM in the rest of the investigation, assured Martin Guilbault.

Firefighters still cannot enter the scene of the blaze due to concerns about the building’s structure, he said. Specialists will establish a plan over the weekend to be able to move forward in a safe manner for all stakeholders involved, said Mr. Guilbault.

An operation aimed at protecting the heritage structure of the building could also be attempted.

A firefighter was injured during the blaze because he received blood from a victim in the eye, Mr. Guilbault said. He had access to medical services.

During the fire, nine people were taken to hospital, and two of them are still hospitalized with serious burns, Belzil said on Saturday. They are in the center of major burns victims.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, said Mr. Guilbault and Mr. Belzil. It is too early in the investigation to assess whether breaches of building code may have caused the fire or contributed to the deaths of its residents.

“Right now we’re not talking about arson,” Belzil said. It was transferred [to the SPVM] because we have reason to believe that there are victims. »

Thursday, Mr. Guilbault had argued in a press briefing that “the smoke detectors in some of the apartments were possibly defective”, which he did not reiterate on Saturday.

“Because we haven’t entered the building yet, we can’t confirm or deny the presence of smoke alarms,” ​​he said. This will be part of the investigation that we will be conducting in the coming days. »

The neighborhood that had to be evacuated was able to return to their quarters. The buildings adjacent to the burned one were spared by the flames.

The lawyer Émile Benamor, owner of the heritage building destroyed by the flames, owns about fifteen buildings on the territory of Montreal, according to the Land Registry. Among his properties, several houses and multi-unit buildings.

In a report consulted by La Presse last Thursday, the SIM claims to have already intervened in another building belonging to Me Benamor, rue Notre-Dame, in Old Montreal. “The purpose of my intervention was to carry out an inspection following a complaint by a tenant of the presence of a clandestine rooming house”, says an inspector in an offense report dated 2021 and filed in Court municipal.

“These are extremely trying hours for the families of those missing and the injured,” lamented La Presse Alain Vaillancourt, head of public security on the executive committee of the City of Montreal. I wholeheartedly agree with them. Everything is in place to find answers to the questions that remain unanswered. »

“The SPVM and the SIM are working tirelessly to shed light on the causes of the fire,” he continued. The current priority is to secure the premises to allow research. We are monitoring developments very closely. I thank the teams who have been doing important work on the ground since the tragedy. »