(Marseille) Monday at nightfall, the firefighters continued their race against time, nearly 48 hours after the collapse of a building in the center of Marseille. And the hope of finding survivors was dwindling, after the discovery of six dead bodies.

In the pile of rubble at 17 rue de Tivoli, rescuers first found two bodies overnight from Sunday to Monday. Then two more, in the morning. And two more in the afternoon, said the firefighters and the Marseille prosecutor’s office, which opened an investigation for “involuntary homicides”.

“The identification operations are continuing,” the prosecution said in a statement. And for the first time since the tragedy, the forensic experts “were able to begin their work to identify the causes of the explosion”. For security reasons, they had not previously been able to access the site, which was too dangerous.

On the side of the firefighters, there was still hope of finding people alive under the rubble: “We of course hope to find pockets of survival, that’s what drives us”, explained to AFP the Lieutenant Adrien Schaller.

Sunday evening, during a press conference, the public prosecutor of Marseille had mentioned eight people presumed missing at 17 rue de Tivoli, who did not respond to “any call” from their relatives. “People of a certain age and a young couple in their thirties,” said the magistrate about the inhabitants of this four-storey building, with five apartments.

Two people could therefore still be under the rubble, after the collapse of this building near a district known for its bars and restaurants. And the rescuers continued their work, tirelessly, helped by dogs, drones and thermal probes. In total, more than 500 cubic meters of rubble have already been evacuated, from 17, but also from 15, rue de Tivoli, collapsed a few hours after the explosion on Sunday, after being completely evacuated.

Faced with these “tragic events”, Benoît Payan, the mayor of the second city of France, decided to lower the flags of the town hall and of all the town halls of the sector. Similarly, registers of condolences will be opened.

In total, nearly 200 people, including several families, were evacuated as a precaution from about thirty surrounding buildings. On Monday, the inhabitants of 61 of these 220 dwellings were able to come and collect some personal effects, while waiting to be able to return there soon.

According to Commander Pascal, commander of relief operations on Monday, this operation will be repeated on Tuesday, for other people who have not yet been able to recover their belongings. And for some residents, from five or six buildings, it may even be the return, “with electricity, but perhaps without gas”, however warned the officer.

For the neighborhood children, it will be back to school, after the Easter weekend. Even if some of them will not be able to return to their usual homes afterwards.

The students of the Franklin-Roosevelt elementary school, located rue de Tivoli, will even be deprived of their classrooms, this building having been requisitioned by the marine firefighters to install their command post. Their parents have been notified and they will be sent to different schools in the neighborhood.

As often in this city, solidarity has been organized. Many associations of parents of students in the neighborhood and residents have mobilized to offer accommodation, clothing and psychological assistance to people evacuated as a precaution from surrounding buildings.

In a city marked in recent weeks by the proliferation of fatal shootings linked to drug trafficking that have cost the lives of several young people from working-class districts, this fatal collapse has caused a new shock.

And the investigation continues to determine the causes of the explosion, a gas leak being part of the tracks, according to the authorities.

“The explosion was felt all over the city and even more here in the Camas district, where the impact was considerable,” said Yannick Ohanessian, deputy mayor for security, on Monday: “It was violent. unheard of, and as such, it potentially moved adjacent buildings, so you have to be vigilant.”

Even if Sunday’s drama awakened the images of a previous deadly collapse (eight dead) of two unsanitary buildings in November 2018, rue d’Aubagne, in another district of central Marseille, the situation is very different this time: rue de Tivoli, “these are not unsanitary buildings at all”, underlined mayor, prosecutor and prefect.