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France

Up to eight feared dead in France after Marseille building collapse

  • Officials said authorities were trying to trace five residents and three people who were visiting the buildings
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 11:19pm

As many as eight people might have died in the southern French city of Marseille in two building collapses, officials said on Tuesday. Three bodies were pulled out from the wreckage during the day – two men and a woman.

Rescuers worked throughout the night to look for victims in the rubble of two dilapidated blocks of flats which collapsed suddenly on Monday morning not far from the centre of the Mediterranean port city.

France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner arrived in Marseille on Tuesday.

“The most important is saving lives,” Castaner said at the scene. “During the first clearing operations we’ve found some pockets of air that means we still have some hope of finding and identifying a survivor.”

Castaner said 120 police officers and 80 firefighters took part in the rescue effort, working through the night in the pile of beams and rubble.

The first victim – a man – was pulled from the wreckage earlier on Tuesday, prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said, adding that he needed to be identified. A second body of a woman was found in the afternoon, followed by another male victim.

Google Maps images taken in recent months showed the two collapsed buildings, in the working-class neighbourhood of Noailles, had large visible cracks in their facades.

The buildings were in a small shopping street in the centre of the city. One of them had been condemned and, with its windows boarded up, was well-secured and in theory unoccupied, officials said.

Local media reports said at least two passers-by were injured in the accident. Fire crews working with sniffer dogs later brought down the remains of a third building they feared could topple over on them.

Officials said recent heavy rains may have been a contributing factor.

Leading left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melonchon, who visited the scene Monday, had reportedly been critical of the city’s housing policy. “It is the houses of poor people that collapse – and that is no coincidence,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his solidarity with the city of Marseille as it dealt with the collapse.

Additional reporting by Associated Press