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Eighth body found after building explosion in southern France

Investigators have opened an inquiry into possible arson after gas canisters were found nearby

A fire truck with the word “incendie” (fire) in French on the side

One woman was missing after the deadly blast, with investigators considering the possibility that the fire and blast were caused on purpose Pic: vmargineanu / Shutterstock

An eighth body has been found following the explosion of a building in a Pyrénées-Orientales town yesterday (February 14).

The explosion happened in a two-storey building in the town of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque. It caused the building to collapse as fire ripped through the property and affected two others.

The death toll of eight makes the incident - which also killed a baby of only a few months and a two-year-old - one of the deadliest fires in France for more than 10 years. 

One man was seriously injured after jumping from the building to escape the flames, while 30 more people sustained less serious injuries.

Emergency services were at the scene until 19:30 last night and police continued to secure the site overnight.

Criminal possibility

The prosecutor in Perpignan has said that while all possibilities are being investigated, there are some “elements that lead us to believe this could be a criminal issue”.

This includes firefighters finding gas canisters in the area surrounding the building. It is too soon to say if there was a relevant link between the seven deceased people, the prosecutor said.

An investigation into possible arson has been opened.

Missing woman was being searched for this morning

This morning (February 15), firefighters were searching for a 66-year-old woman who was thought to be missing in an adjacent damaged building, which had not yet been properly searched due to instability. The team told L’Indépendant: “We have identified two rooms that we think she could be in; the bedroom or the kitchen.”

Colonel Alexandre Trani told BMFTV: “We are continuing our search as one person is still missing.”

The building is still unstable and weak but emergency services are pushing ahead. Fabien Vergez, commander on-site, said: “It’s still a problem, but we have decided to go in, with teams that will work tile by tile, beam by beam.”

Public prosecutor Jean-David Cavaillé said that the number of victims confirmed so far is “provisional" and "may, unfortunately, change".

It has not yet been confirmed whether the eighth body found belongs to the missing woman.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin visited the scene yesterday, and tweeted that “he was sending all his support to the state services on the scene and to the residents” and that his “thoughts were with the victims and their loved ones.”

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