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Building collapse in Marseille city centre: what is known so far

Firemen are battling to contain fire that broke out in the rubble so that sniffer dogs can enter to search for people. A gas explosion is thought to be a possible cause

Rescue workers at the scene. Screenshot from BFMTV Pic: Marseille building collapse April 2023 - Screenshot from BFMTV

UPDATE: 18:00 April 10: Four bodies have now been discovered and at least two people are still missing

Rescue teams are working to find people after a four-storey building collapsed in a residential area in the centre of Marseille just after midnight last night (April 8-9).

"We have to be prepared to have victims in this terrible tragedy," the city’s mayor Benoît Payan said this morning.

Five people, residents of neighbouring buildings, were injured and a total of 33 have been treated but no one from the collapsed building has come forward, raising concerns about the fate of the occupants.

The incident occurred around 00:40 in a residential street on the edge of the Plaine district, which is known for its restaurants and bars. The building was not thought to be in a poor condition.

The collapse of the building at 17 rue de Tivoli has dragged down part of the neighbouring buildings (15 and 19), one of which is now also at risk of collapse, Mr Payan told reporters at the scene this morning. 

No list of missing people

No list of possible missing persons from the collapsed building has yet been established as firefighters battle to contain fire that broke out in the rubble, hampering the search, said Vice Admiral Lionel Mathieu, commander of the local fire brigade.

An emergency number has been established on 04 91 55 11 11.  Several nearby roads have been closed and police are asking drivers to avoid trying to access the area.

An explosion is thought to have been the cause.

The incident is probably linked to an explosion but the exact causes are not yet known, say the rescue services. "We must remain very cautious about the causes at this stage," Christophe Mirmand, the prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône region, told reporters, saying gas could be "a possible option."

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is visit the site today.

Major rescue resources mobilised

More than 100 firefighters are engaged, but search teams with dogs have not been able to go in to look for possible survivors as the heat is too intense. "We are trying to speed up operations because time is of the essence," said Admiral Mathieu.

A race against time is also underway in the neighbouring building at number 15, "which is also in danger of collapsing", putting rescue workers at risk, the mayor said. 

"At the moment, we are clearing neighbouring buildings, taking care not to endanger the lives of people who might be alive inside the rubble," he said.

Other buildings in the street have also been evacuated as a safety measure with residents taken to a school in the early hours as a precaution, the prefect said.

An investigation is underway

An investigation has been opened to determine the causes of the disaster.

In November 2018, the collapse of two buildings on rue d'Aubagne in another district of central Marseille, Noailles, killed eight people and sparked a wave of indignation against poor housing in the city. Around 40,000 people live in poor housing conditions in the area, according to NGOs.

But both the mayor and the prefect appear to have ruled out an unsanitary building in this recent incident. 

"It is not a district listed as having poor housing standards," said the prefect. "To my knowledge, there are no particular problems with this building," the mayor added.

Related links:

Marseille building collapse search halted

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