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What is the latest on the deadly collapse of buildings in Marseille?

Four of the six people killed in the collapse were identified on Tuesday

Marseille mayor Benoît Payan has said that the entire city is in mourning after at least six people have been confirmed dead in the collapse. Photo for illustration purposes only Pic: Ostariyanov / Shutterstock

At least two people are still missing after the building collapse in Marseille that has killed at least six people, as sniffer dogs and rescuers continue to search the rubble by hand.

What do we know so far? 

The four-storey building, 17 rue de Tivoli, collapsed overnight - at around 00:46 - on Sunday (April 9). Investigators have said they believe the cause to be a gas explosion (although this has yet to be confirmed).

Four of the six bodies pulled from the rubble have so far been identified. 

They are Jack and Anne-Marie, both 74, a couple that lived on the third floor; Antoinetta, an 88-year-old woman who lived on the first floor; and Nicole, a 65-year-old woman who lived in the ground-floor garden flat.

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

Two other bodies are still in the process of being identified.

The adjacent buildings were severely destabilised. [The building] Number 15 fell later on Sunday morning and there are fears over the stability of number 19. 

However, a fire that broke out after the incident was able to be contained and is “no longer really problematic”, the rescue workers have said.

Residents of more than 43 homes in the neighbouring area have been evacuated as a precaution. On Monday (April 10), they were able to come back to pick up personal belongings, while they wait to be told they can definitively return.

Those in the buildings furthest away from the site may be able to return soon, but others have been told that the wait may be much longer. Of the 200 or so people evacuated, around 150 have been able to stay with friends and family, while 50 have required urgent rehoming from local authorities.

What is the latest information?

At a press conference on Tuesday (April 11) morning, the Marseille public prosecutor Dominique Laurens said investigators were “continuing to work on the hypothesis of a gas explosion”. 

However, she said that a “new element” in the investigation centred on the fact that “on the first floor, the cooking equipment had recently been changed to an electric cooker”, which perhaps indicated that an 85-year-old resident had had some “difficulties [with gas] in the past”.

She added that the “searches are becoming particularly dangerous”, and that the “rubble continues to be searched by hand because there is a real danger of the collapse of [next door house] number 19”.

She said: “The search is continuing with the utmost caution [so as] "not to add disaster to disaster".

Rescuers are proceeding with sniffer dogs and moving the rubble by hand in a bid to reduce the risk.

Is the search for survivors ongoing?

A spokesperson for the on-site firefighting rescue team told French television channel TF1 that the hope of finding survivors in the rubble is fading with every passing hour.

A local priest, Père Olivier, who held a prayer vigil with Marseille cardinal-archbishop Jean-Marc Aveline, said: “Finding a survivor would be a miracle, but we have faith.”

The searches are set to continue “for several days”, with more than 100 rescuers still on-site. Marseille mayor Benoît Payan said that “it is a long and tedious job”, but that “there is still hope” of finding survivors.

What else do we know about the gas explosion hypothesis?

Ms Laurens explained: "We were able to recover the gas metre from the first floor of the building. It is currently being analysed to check whether there was any abnormal consumption in the 24 hours preceding the explosion

“What we know is that only the ground floor and the first floor were equipped with gas.”

What can the public do?

An emergency number (04 91 55 11 11) has been set up "for people directly affected" by the collapses. A reception centre for families has also been opened at 110 Boulevard de la Libération, in the 4th arrondissement.

A condolences book has been opened at the central Hotel de Ville in Marseille, in the Vieux-Port. Members of the public can visit to pay their respects. The flags on the building are also at half-mast.

Mr Payan said in a Tweet that the book had been opened so that “people can show their support”. He said: “Marseille, in mourning, stands by the families and loved ones of the victims.”

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