A four-story building collapsed in a middle-class neighborhood in central Marseille, in southern France, early this Sunday (9), and a fire reached the rubble of the property. During the morning, a second neighboring property, which had been emptied, also collapsed.
According to the mayor of the city, Benoît Payan, six injured people were hospitalized and five of them are in serious condition.
According to Payan, the assessment is tentative. “We must be prepared to have casualties in this terrible tragedy,” Payan said.
“There is currently a fire in the rubble and that prevents us from sending dogs and teams in search of possible victims,” said the mayor.
At least 11 people were evacuated unharmed, including two children.
Firefighters still do not have information about the number of people who were in the building at the time of the collapse.
Still according to firefighters, two neighboring buildings were hit by debris and one of them has already collapsed. Residents of a third property on the same street were ordered to leave.
So far, the cause of the collapse has not been identified. But residents in the area reported that there was an explosion before the building collapsed.
“There are strong suspicions that an explosion caused the collapse,” said the mayor.
The building at the center of the incident is located at 15 rue Tivoli, in the 5th district of Marseille, an area with cafes, restaurants and housing. According to local authorities, the building had been recently renovated and did not pose a risk due to unhealthy conditions, nor did the neighbor, who also collapsed, at number 17 on the same street.
France’s second-largest city, Marseille is marked by poverty, with around 40,000 inhabitants living in precarious conditions, according to NGOs. Over the past 40 years, several buildings have collapsed in the municipality.
On January 11, 1981, eight people died and 16 were injured when a building collapsed in the Canet neighborhood, inhabited by low-income families. Another five people died in 1985, in an accidental explosion that occurred in a building near Boulevard do Prado. On July 20, 1996, a gas explosion collapsed a seven-story building near Saint-Charles train station, leaving four people dead and 26 injured.