While the hunt for six persons still missing following a fire that destroyed a building with Airbnb units in a historic city district where they are prohibited continued on Monday, the mayor of Montreal vowed to strengthen regulation of the service.
At first, firefighters in the city in eastern Canada believed just one person was missing from the blaze on Thursday.
Authorities upgraded the missing over the weekend to seven people, including some from the United States, after reports of unlawful Airbnb units in the more than 130-year-old structure surfaced later.
The body of a lady was discovered among the ruins Sunday night, according to Montreal police.
Inspector David Shane of the Montreal police said that the six people currently unaccounted for are from Quebec, Ontario, and the United States and that investigators have gotten in touch with their relatives.
Nine people were hurt by the fire, including two who were hospitalized.
The origin of the fire is being looked into.
According to Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, the building had an architect’s office and unauthorized Airbnb flats.
According to Plante, Airbnb ought to have required that owners of rental units provide a permit number from the Quebec provincial government.
Plante declared, “What happened here is a complete catastrophe.” And that would force people who want to act illegally and don’t pay taxes not to escape their responsibilities.
“We would not be in this position if we had been dealing with a company that took its responsibilities seriously and said to these owners, “You don’t have a certificate, you cannot rent your unit.”
Plante stated that she intended to collaborate with the provincial government of Quebec to enact stricter laws governing short-term rentals.
The regional policy lead for Canada for Airbnb, Nathan Rotman, issued the following statement via email: “Our sympathies go out to the victims of this tragedy, as well as to their families and loved ones.
We support impacted people and work with law enforcement to conduct an investigation. We have a relationship with the mayor’s office as well.
The building’s owner, Emile-Haim Benamor, was represented by attorney Alexandre Bergevin on Sunday.
He claimed that his client was not running Airbnb rentals in the structure; instead, tenants were, and measures had been taken to end the practice.
Firefighters will start demolishing the second and third floors of the building on Monday, according to Martin Guilbault, chief of operations for the Montreal fire department.
According to Shane, the woman’s body was retrieved on Sunday, and the police department’s fire squad utilized a drone to help find it.
Six additional people are believed to be inside, according to Shane. “Unfortunately, the various actions we’ve done (indicate) that these folks who are still missing are in the rubble.”
According to city officials, short-term rentals in the form of Airbnb are not permitted in the area where the building is located in Old Montreal. According to the city, the 1890-built Édifice William-Watson-Ogilvie was the site of the fire.
In a text reply sent on Sunday, Bergevin stated that the alarm system had been replaced in 2019 and was routinely inspected.
Shane stated that the cause of the incident is still being investigated and that no one has been charged with it.