Police have confirmed that cadaver dogs will search a vacant Sydney building that exploded into flames as emergency services are still unable to sift through the rubble days after the incident.
The vacant heritage-listed building located in Surry Hills erupted into an inferno on Thursday afternoon, with more than 100 firefighters working through the night to battle the blaze.
Police told reporters last week that authorities were working to account for up to 15 homeless people who were known to frequent the building and were believed to have slept there the night before.
It is understood that two people remain unaccounted for more than three days after the fire.
Cadaver-detection dogs and forensic imaging will be used to search sections of the rubble once the building is demolished, police have confirmed on Monday afternoon.
“While police have not received any reports of missing people, investigators are unable to definitively say there is no one inside,” a statement from police said.
An exclusion zone remains in place, encircling the Randle St building and adjoining light rail loop and multistorey buildings within metres of Central train station.
A small bobcat is now on site removing bricks and debris from the area to prepare the building for more heavy machinery required for demolition.
Fire and Rescue NSW Superintendent Adam Dewberry said it was still “too unsafe for anyone to go into the building”, with drones used to assess the wreckage up to this stage.
“We want to get people back in their homes, businesses back to trading and roads functioning at normal capacity again, but safety is our first priority,” he said on Monday.
He told reporters last week that there was a “major concern” the walls could crumble at any moment, with an external wall moving 70mm on Friday night.
“There is a high chance these could fall in, collapse without notice, bringing tonnes of bricks down, those bricks becoming projectiles,” he told Sunrise on Friday morning.
Specialist teams are continuing to monitor the surrounding buildings, which include apartments and businesses.
Unstable walls were being monitored with laser measuring tools and drones, Fire and Rescue NSW said in a statement.
The exclusion zone may remain in place for some days as the site is assessed for impacts to infrastructure like gas and electricity lines as well as waste management.
“We need to make sure that we don’t make the situation worse by rupturing it or causing this building that’s got unsafe walls for those parts to collapse on top of other unaffected buildings,” Superintendent Dewberry told reporters.
Nearby homeowners continue to be impacted by the blaze, with residents of two apartment blocks still not able to return home to collect their belongings.
Police and firefighters are continuing to provide accompanied access to the buildings within the exclusion zone during daylight hours for residents to collect belongings.
So far, at least 100 people have registered as being displaced by the inferno, with many provided alternative accommodation through the NSW welfare services.
When the site is rendered safe, NSW Police claim a significant amount of work still will need to be undertaken on impacted residential buildings before they can be reoccupied.
As such, a timeline for the return home of displaced residents is “not yet available”.
Clean-up operations are expected to continue on Tuesday after demolition machinery was escorted onto the site on Monday afternoon for works to begin.
Police advise any nearby residents to close all windows and external doors while work is carried out, with dust and debris expected to be displaced.
Roads throughout the busy Surry Hills area will also continue to be impacted once clean-up begins, with the intermittent closure of the southbound lanes on Elizabeth St expected.
Partial road closures will also continue to impact traffic on Randle St and Chalmers St.
Buses travelling towards the city continue to be diverted away from those streets.
They will instead use local streets and may start or terminate their trips at different stops.
People are advised to consider catching a train to and from Redfern station to connect with buses.
Once the site is rendered safe, further assessments will be undertaken by contactors and engineers to determine whether the remaining structure will be salvageable.
Fire and Rescue NSW released drone footage taken from above two destroyed buildings, revealing melted interiors and piles of rubble within the partially collapsed walls of the structure.
No charges have been laid in relation to the fire despite two 13-year-olds handing themselves into police on Friday night and assisting police with inquiries.