French rescue crews have found the body of a man in the ruins of two buildings that collapsed in the southern city of Marseille.
- One condemned building assumed vacant, the other was inhabited
- Third building demolished to prevent further disaster
- Dozens of residents evacuated from nearby apartments
The two buildings gave way where they stood on Monday morning, collapsing in a cloud of dust and leaving behind huge piles of debris.
The city’s fire brigade worked through the night to free people from the ruins and confirmed on its Twitter feed on Tuesday morning (local time) that a man’s body had been discovered. His identity has not been released.
Authorities fear other people may also be trapped in the ruins.
Eight residents and two men recorded on a security camera walking by the buildings just before the collapse were unaccounted for, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told France Bleu.
One building had 12 apartments, with France 24 reporting that nine were occupied.
The other building had been condemned and was assumed to be vacant.
Nearly 100 firefighters arrived at the scene to look for victims.
“It’s a race against the clock,” Housing Minister Julien Denormandie said on Monday.
“The urgent task is to determine whether there are people we can save.”
Firefighters’ rescue efforts were hampered by fears destabilised buildings could also collapse. (AP: Claude Paris)
Earlier, the search effort was halted over fears a neighbouring building would cave in, with firefighters noting buildings were “visibly weakened” after the collapse.
Fire officials deliberately brought down the majority of a third building late that afternoon, evacuating roughly 100 residents of nearby apartments.
The search for survivors continued late into the night on Monday.
“At Marseille tonight [authorities] devote all their energy to the rescue and clearing,” Mr Castaner said on Twitter.
“Every minute counts. As long as there is hope we will continue.”
One of the buildings was clearly in poor repair, with boarded-up windows and large visible cracks on the facade before it collapsed.
Two people who were in the street when the buildings collapsed were treated for minor injuries.
In a Facebook post, Mr Gaudin said recent heavy rains may have contributed to the collapse, but the exact cause was unknown.