MARSEILLE: Two dead were discovered in the ruins of a building that fell in Marseille after a big explosion, according to French authorities, who were scrambling to identify at least six people who remained unaccounted for.

Hundreds of firemen are still battling a blaze that has impeded search operations more than 24 hours after the four-story structure imploded, with locals reporting a strong smell of gas.

The mayor of the Mediterranean port city, on the other hand, stated that rescue crews have not given up hope of finding survivors.

“There is still hope, and as long as there is hope, we will not stop,” Mayor Benoit Payan stated at the tragedy site.

He stated that rescue personnel were performing a “surgical” operation at the scene in order to “protect at all costs” any potential survivors.

Each floor of the building was thought to hold one unit.

The fire at the scene has made it difficult for sniffer dogs to find additional victims or survivors.

“Given the particular difficulties of intervention,” the fire service said in a brief statement announcing the bodies’ discovery.

Local prosecutor Dominique Laurens told reporters on Sunday, before the bodies were discovered, that eight people “were not responding to phone calls.”

The bomb and collapse, which occurred at 12:40 a.m. on Sunday, injured five persons from surrounding buildings. (2240 GMT Saturday).

The origin of the explosion is yet unknown, although authorities are looking into the potential of a gas leak.

“I was sleeping when there was this huge blast that shook the whole room.” “I was startled awake, as if I’d been dreaming,” Saveria Mosnier, who lives on a street near the scene in the La Plaine district, said.

“We quickly detected a strong gas odor that lingered; we could still smell it this morning,” she told AFP.

At the scene, Deputy Mayor Yannick Ohanessian told reporters that numerous witnesses had reported “a suspicious smell of gas.”

Two nearby buildings were seriously damaged, with one collapsing later in the day without injuring any rescuers.

Almost 200 residents have been evacuated, and 50 have asked to be rehoused as soon as possible.

In a nearby district, a help center for persons looking for missing family members or loved ones was opened.

“A lot of families in the neighborhood are afraid,” said Arnaud Dupleix, head of the Tivoli elementary school’s parents’ organization, which jumped into action to organise relief for those evacuated.

In 2018, two old buildings in Marseille’s working-class neighbourhood of Noailles collapsed, killing eight people.

That incident shone a harsh light on the city’s housing standards, with humanitarian organizations claiming that 40,000 people were living in deplorable conditions.

However, authorities appeared to rule out structural difficulties in the latest fall on Sunday.
“There was no danger notice for this building, and it is not in a neighborhood known for substandard housing,” said Christophe Mirmand, prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhone region.




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