Marseille building collapse search halted

Six bodied have been recovered, but the search for victims has been suspended for safety reasons, with two more buildings in danger of collapse

Six bodies have now been found in the rubble of two buildings that collapsed in the centre of Marseille on Monday - but the search for other victims has been halted for 24 hours because two more properties are in danger of collapsing.

The decision to halt the search was made to allow time for parts of the two neighbouring buildings to be pulled down safely, Pierre Dartout, prefect of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, said on Wednesday evening.

"A digger will remove number 69 piece by piece, and the upper floors of number 71," he said, calling the decision one that is "always difficult to make".

It is feared that the initial collapse may have triggered a 'domino effect' by destabilising other buildings on the sloping rue d'Aubagne in the Noailles district of the city.

The bodies of four men and two women have been found in the rubble since Tuesday morning. Three have been identified as tenants of 65 rue d'Aubagne, the only one of the collapsed buildings that was officially inhabited at the time.

Authorities believe two more people may have been buried.

The cause of the collapse has not been established, a public prosecutor said on Wednesday, adding that it was 'premature' to try to establish any criminal liability.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner, announced that he had ordered a building-by-building audit in Marseilles before launching what he called an ambitious programme to ensure safer conditions.

Marseille city council has rehoused 100 residents from neighbouring buildings and has said that heavy rain, which has hampered rescue operations, may have contributed to the collapse.

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