MARSEILLE, France: The collapse of a four-storey residential building in Marseille on Sunday left at least five people from surrounding structures injured, but a fire was preventing rescue workers in their search for victims, officials said.
The collapse of the building in the port city in southern France occurred around 12:40 a.m. (2240 GMT), Marseille mayor Benoit Payan told reporters, damaging parts of the two surrounding buildings.
So far, five people were injured from two residences next to the collapsed building in the central La Plaine district, he said, but the fire in the rubble was “ongoing.”
“(The fire) is extremely difficult to control… The firefighters are judging minute by minute how best to put out this fire because there are potentially people alive inside,” Payan said.
“We have to be prepared to have victims in this terrible tragedy.”
The streets around the collapsed building were cordoned off and choked with dust. Firefighters could be seen attempting to work their way through the building debris.
“We are trying to speed up the (search and rescue operations) because time is of essence,” but the search dogs cannot keep up in the heat, said the commander of the Marseille marine firefighters, Lionel Mathieu.
It remains unclear how many residents were in the collapsed building, authorities said.
But rescue workers are in a race against time to evacuate damaged neighboring buildings also at risk of collapse.
“At the moment, we are clearing the buildings next door, taking care not to endanger the people who could be beneath the rubble,” the mayor said.
'Sounded like an explosion'
In the surrounding buildings, more than 30 residents were “affected”, while five were injured. All evacuees were currently sheltering in schools and nurseries.
Regional prefect Christophe Mirmand told AFP there were “strong suspicions” that an explosion caused the collapse, possibly a gas leak.
A late-night food vendor working on the street said “everything shook” during what sounded like an explosion.
“We saw people running and there was smoke everywhere,” said Aziz, who declined to give his last name.
Gilles, who lives on a side street near the fallen building, told AFP the sound of the crash “was huge”.
“It sounded like an explosion,” said Gilles, also declining to provide his last name.
Another major structural collapse occurred in Marseille in November 2018, when two dilapidated buildings in the working-class district of Noailles caved in, killing eight people.
The accident cast a light on the city's housing standards.
But authorities appeared to rule out structural issues in the latest collapse, in a neighborhood known for its bars and nightlife.
“There was no danger code for this building, and it is not in a neighborhood identified as having substandard housing,” said Mirmand.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net