Thursday, July 18, 2024

Families of the Montreal fire victims face an agonizing wait



MONTREAL — Families and friends of presumed victims of a deadly fire in Old Montreal faced an agonizing wait Tuesday as a recovery team worked their way into the charred crust of the building where two bodies were found and five people are still missing.

Yukun Tseng said waiting to hear about what happened to his friend An Wu “was absolutely heartbreaking”.

Wu is one of the people missing after a fire ripped through a historic building in Old Montreal that housed Airbnb units on Thursday.

The body of a woman was recovered Sunday, but her identity has not been established. Late Tuesday, the police announced that the remains of a second victim had been recovered from the rubble and sent to the forensic laboratory for identification.

“I have also spoken with other friends and relatives of An. We still don’t fully understand why this is taking so long,” Zeng told reporters near the building.

Zeng described Wu as a neuroscientist doing postdoctoral work at UCSD who was in Montreal for a conference. He said the 31-year-old decided to extend her stay for one night because she loves the city, adding that the late Montrealer Leonard Cohen was her favorite singer and poet.

He said Wu’s parents were coming to Montreal from their home in China, and he hoped they could get more information than he was able to.

Inspector David Shin told reporters that the building’s unstable structure made recovering bodies complicated and potentially dangerous. He said that several floors of the building collapsed onto each other, causing destruction.

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Shin said that identifying the bodies would be a “long process,” in part because victims would have to be identified through at least one scientific method, such as dental records or DNA.

Jonathan Clark, who lives in New York, came to Montreal to say goodbye to his dear friend Sania Khan, whom he referred to as his “twin flame.”

Clarke said that Khan was in Montreal on a trip with her childhood friend, Dania Zafar. The two women, who are now believed to be missing, he said, “were very young, very bright, beautiful, and had a life.”

Her father has identified 18-year-old Charlie Lacroix from the Montreal suburb of Terrebonne as one of the missing. Lacroix’s father said his daughter, who had “everything in front of her,” rented a unit in the building on Airbnb with a friend.

Police said the historic building houses units rented on the Airbnb platform, which is banned by the city in the area. They did not confirm the number of missing tourists.

The fire has sparked renewed scrutiny of the short-term rental platform, and Montreal’s mayor has called on Airbnb to stop listing units that don’t have a permit proving they’re operating legally.

Lacroix’s father, who said his daughter told 911 workers she was trapped in a unit with no fire escape or windows, called on the city to ensure Airbnb and apartments have proper exits.

Airbnb said it supports victims and helps police, but did not answer questions about whether it was prepared to crack down on illegal listings.

Rainerio Manuel
Rainerio Manuel

"Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst."