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An apartment fire in North Vancouver has killed two people and sent a dozen to hospital for treatment of various injuries.

The victims were trapped when the blaze tore through one of four buildings in the 170-unit complex around 2:30 a.m. Monday, said Wayne Kennedy, deputy chief with District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue.

“One half of the building was fully affected by the fire and the other half was affected by smoke and water,” Kennedy said.

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RCMP said in a news release that 17 units in the wooden, two-storey complex were extensively damaged, leaving about 70 people permanently displaced.

Flames were visible as firefighters pulled up, Kennedy said, but residents from other suites were already rushing to assist people and that was a huge help to crews.

As a precaution, crews evacuated other buildings in the sprawling 4.5-hectare complex and sent more than 100 residents to a nearby reception centre.

Fire crews didn’t immediately realize two people were trapped, Kennedy said.

“There was some mention to us, early on, that there were a couple of people who weren’t accounted for, but due to the intensity of the fire and the amount of units that were involved it wasn’t a safe alternative for us to get into some of the units until we had a better control of the fire.”

Firefighters were able to check the suites several hours later and found both people in the same unit.

The BC Coroners Service confirmed via e-mail that it is in the early stages of an investigation into two deaths.

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The victims were from the same family, but their names and ages have not been released, police said.

Mounties added that 12 survivors were treated in several area hospitals for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to burns.

Most residents were allowed to return to their suites in unaffected parts of the complex within hours.

Crews continued to douse hot spots on the fire Monday, and Kennedy said an assessment of the structural integrity of the building would also be required.

He said it was still unclear what sparked the blaze and work to determine a cause would begin as soon as possible.

An RCMP arson unit, the fire department and the coroners service are all working on the investigation.

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