September 24, 2023

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Eight folks remained lacking after the constructing they lived in exploded and collapsed early Sunday close to the port of Marseille, leaving mounds of burning particles hampering rescue operations, officers mentioned.

Greater than 100 firefighters labored in opposition to a ticking clock to extinguish flames deep inside the rubble of the five-story constructing, however greater than 17 hours later “the scenario isn’t but stabilized,” Marseille Prosecutor Dominique Laurens mentioned at a night information convention.

Earlier within the day, officers had thought that between 4 and 10 folks might have been trapped. Laurens mentioned police have but to substantiate the obvious disappearance of a ninth one who lived in a next-door constructing. 5 folks suffered minor accidents from the collapse, which occurred shortly earlier than 1 a.m.

Marseille Mayor Benoit Payan mentioned two buildings that share partitions with the one which collapsed had been partially introduced down earlier than one later caved in, one other complication within the search and rescue operation. The buildings had been amongst evacuated constructions.

Drones and probes have been used to look at the scene for indicators of life. The burning particles was too sizzling for canine within the firefighters’ canine workforce to work till Sunday afternoon, although smoke nonetheless bothered them, the prosecutor mentioned.

“We can’t intervene in a really basic method,” Inside Minister Gerald Darmanin mentioned throughout a morning go to to the location. He mentioned the fireplace was burning just a few meters underneath the mounds of particles and that each water and foam symbolize a hazard to victims’ survival.

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An investigation has been opened for involuntary harm, at the least initially sidestepping attainable prison intentions. A gasoline explosion was among the many tracks to verify, mentioned Laurens, the prosecutor. However the begin of the probe additionally was restricted by the warmth of the blaze.

“The flames weren’t pink. They had been blue,” Payan mentioned.

Firefighters, with the assistance of city rescue specialists, labored by way of the night time and all day Sunday in a gradual race in opposition to time. The fragile operation aimed to maintain firefighters protected, stop additional hurt to folks probably trapped within the rubble and never compromise susceptible buildings close by, already partially collapsed. Some 30 buildings within the space had been evacuated, Darmanin mentioned.

Lauren, the prosecutor, mentioned that firefighters “are actually in a sophisticated scenario, harmful for them.” Work is progressing however with security precautions, she mentioned.

“We heard an explosion … a really robust explosion which made us leap, and that’s it,” mentioned Marie Ciret, who was amongst these evacuated. “We seemed outdoors the window at what was occurring. We noticed smoke, stones, and folks working.”

The constructing that collapsed is positioned on a slender avenue lower than a kilometer (a half-mile) from Marseille’s iconic outdated port, including to an array of difficulties for firefighters and rescue staff. The prosecutor mentioned the constructing and people subsequent door “are in no way substandard buildings.”

Robots had been reportedly being deployed. A crane was introduced in to clear rubble and firefighters had been at one level seen in TV video hosing elements of the particles from a window in a close-by condo as plumes of smoke rose skyward.

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“We’re attempting to drown the fireplace whereas preserving the lives of eventual victims underneath the rubble,” Lionel Mathieu, commander of the Marseille fireplace brigade, mentioned throughout a televised briefing.

“Firefighters are gauging minute by minute one of the simplest ways to place out the fireplace,” Payan, the mayor, mentioned.

“We should put together ourselves to have victims,” he mentioned grimly.

The collapsed constructing is positioned in an outdated quarter within the middle of France’s second-largest metropolis. The noise from the explosion resounded in different neighborhoods. Close by streets had been blocked off.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne each tweeted their ideas for folks affected and due to the firefighters.

In 2018, two buildings within the middle of Marseille collapsed, killing eight folks. These buildings had been poorly maintained — not the case with the constructing that collapsed Sunday after an explosion, the inside minister mentioned.


Elaine Ganley reported from Paris.