Six bodies found in Marseille building collapse

By Joseph Ataman, CNN

Paris CNN  —  Rescuers have found two more bodies in the rubble of a building that collapsed in an explosion in the southern French port city of Marseille on Sunday, bringing the total death toll to six.

A “violent explosion” shook the building at around 12:30 a.m. local time, according to Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan, prompting a search and rescue effort as authorities investigated the cause of the blast.

The French Housing Authority said 179 people had been evacuated from the site, rescuers told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Rescue efforts are being complicated by a fire burning within the rubble, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told BFM, during a visit to the scene.

Darmanin said rescuers are also concerned about firefighting water endangering the lives of any buried survivors.

Up to 10 people remain trapped under the rubble.

A spokesman for the country’s Civil Defense, Arnaud Wilm, told BFM that a fifth and sixth body had been found in the ruins on Monday. Wilm said both bodies were still under the rubble and have not yet been recovered.

Two people remain missing, according to BFMTV, who cite the prosecutor’s office.

‘An avalanche of people’

Local residents described hearing an explosion, with lots of dust and a smell of gas in the air.

“It was exhausting and completely insane. I saw an avalanche of people panicking in the street and then I started running like crazy,” an unnamed witness told BFM.

Approximately 30 of the surrounding buildings have also been evacuated, according to Darmanin.

Prosecutor of Marseille Dominique Laurens said in a press conference Sunday that at this stage it was “impossible” to determine the cause of the explosion as “the situation has not yet been stabilized.” She said a “gas explosion” was one lead being examined but it was “something we can’t confirm at this stage of the investigation.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that his thoughts were with those impacted. “Thoughts with Marseille, where a building on rue Tivoli collapsed last night. I am thinking of those affected and their loved ones. An investigation is continuing with significant resources deployed. Thank you to the firefighters and rescuers mobilized,” he said.

Locals desribed hearing a loud explosion in the early hours of Sunday.

A fund of 100,000 euros ($110,000) has been provided to help the victims of the blast, according to the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, with the money coming from regional authorities, BFMTV reported.

BFMTV also reports that the Marseille prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into “unintentional injuries.”

Marseille has suffered such incidents before. In 2018, CNN reported on the collapse of several buildings in the city’s Noailles district, which killed at least four people.

CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne, Jessie Gretener, Jake Kwon and Jennifer Hauser contributed reporting.

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