Canadian investigators seek seven missing after fire at Montreal building

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Police and fire officials in Canada on Sunday were searching the rubble of a Montreal building for seven missing people believed trapped after flames engulfed the site last week.

Flowers were left across a courtyard from the beige stone building in the historic Old Montreal district as workers using a crane tried to secure the badly damaged three-storey structure on Sunday afternoon.

It took more than 100 firefighters to contain the fire at the building, which broke out on Thursday morning and left several injured, said Marie-Eve Beausoleil, a spokesperson for the city's fire department, the Service de securite incendie de Montreal.

Montreal Police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said investigators had reason to believe there were victims inside.

"These are extremely trying times for the families of the missing and the injured," said Alain Vaillancourt, a Montreal city council executive committee member responsible for public security, in a statement.

"The current priority is to secure the scene to allow the search for the victims."

Apartments in the building were used both by long-term residents and guests who were staying there short-term after booking lodgings through Airbnb, Beausoleil said on Saturday.

City officials said the units in the residential building were not supposed to be rented for purposes such as Airbnb, citing municipal rules that restrict which establishments can be used for tourism.

There is no known connection between the units used for short-term rental and the blaze. The fire's cause is unknown.

Ben Breit, Airbnb’s global head of trust and safety communications, said in a statement, "we are providing our support to those affected, and we are assisting law enforcement as they investigate.”

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)