(Marseille) A fourth body was found under the rubble of the collapsed building overnight from Saturday to Sunday in Marseille, in the south of France, where the emergency services are searching tirelessly in difficult conditions.
“ Four bodies found, these are macabre and difficult discoveries ”, declared the Minister of Cities and Housing Olivier Klein during a press briefing held at the scene of the tragedy.
In the morning, a third body was extracted from the rubble after the two were found overnight, authorities said.
Their identity is yet to be determined.
Four people are therefore still missing after the collapse of this building in the heart of the second French city, near a district known for its bars and restaurants.
“ There is still hope ” to find “ possible survivors ”, estimated Monday the mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, present on the site.
A hundred rescuers, helped by dogs, drones and thermal probes, work tirelessly, in difficult conditions, with a fire still smoldering under the rubble, to try to find buried people.
“ The fire did not rage in all parts, there is hope that there are people still alive ”, also affirmed the commander of the Marseille firefighters, Vice-Admiral Lionel Mathieu, referring to a “ battle against time”.
“This night the sorrow and the pain are great”, had said the mayor a few hours earlier, when the marine-firefighters announced that they had found two bodies in the rubble of the apartment building at 17 rue de Tivoli, housing five apartments, which suddenly collapsed after a huge explosion.
“Given the particular difficulties of intervention, the extraction (of the bodies from the site) will take time”, specified the rescuers who work tirelessly day and night.
The public prosecutor of Marseille Dominique Laurens had indicated on Sunday evening that among the missing, there were “ people of a certain age and a young couple in their thirties ”. There would be no children or minors, Laurens said.
In a city marked in recent weeks by the proliferation of fatal shootings linked to drug trafficking which have claimed the lives of several young people from working-class neighborhoods, the collapse of the building, located in a residential area, close to streets with very lively cafes and restaurants , caused a new shock.
“ I share the anguish of the families and loved ones and I salute the efforts and perseverance of all the rescuers ”, wrote in a message to the inhabitants the cardinal of Marseille Jean-Marc Aveline.
About 200 people, including families, had to be evacuated from surrounding buildings as a precaution, and solidarity was organized. Associations of parents of students in the neighborhood and residents have mobilized to offer accommodation, clothing and psychological assistance to these evacuees. The town hall has organized accommodation and a family reception center, with psychological assistance, for relatives of missing persons, has been opened.
The investigation is continuing to determine the causes of the explosion. Gas is obviously part of the tracks, according to the authorities.
“We quickly smelled a strong smell of gas, which remained and we smelled it again this morning,” Savera Mosnier, a resident of a nearby street, told AFP.
Even if Sunday’s tragedy awakened the images of a previous deadly collapse (eight dead) of two buildings, these unsanitary ones, in November 2018, rue d’Aubagne, in another district of central Marseille, the situation is quite different. Rue de Tivoli, “ these are not unsanitary buildings at all”, underlined mayor, prosecutor and prefect.