Death toll in Marseille building collapse goes up to five

Three more bodies have been found in the rubble following an explosion that collapsed a building in the southern French city of Marseille, bringing the confirmed death toll to five as rescuers continue searching for three more people who are unaccounted-for.

Two bodies were found overnight.The judicial authority will proceed to identify the victims, firefighters said in a statement on Monday. It also noted “particular difficulties” in searching for missing residents.

Authorities previously said that nine people were believed missing after Sunday’s explosion, which destroyed two residential buildings and caused a third to partially collapse. The cause of the blast is still unknown.

“The hope to find survivors is still there,” Minister for Cities and Housing Olivier Klein told reporters earlier Monday, after he met with rescuers on site. More than 100 firefighters were mobilised for the searches.

Rescuers were using a crane to move heavy blocks of concrete and rubble with great caution so as not to hurt people who could still be trapped underneath, and then continuing the investigation with their hands.

Mayor Benoit Payan tweeted on Monday that “the pain and sorrow are great.” He said his thoughts went out to the families of the victims and “those who are suffering”.

“Rescue and search operations are continuing without respite,” Payan said.

The burning debris was too hot for dogs in the firefighters’ canine team to work until Sunday afternoon, and smoke still bothered them, a prosecutor said.

An investigation has been opened, and a gas explosion is among the potential causes, the prosecutor added.The collapse occurred shortly before 1am on Sunday (23:00 GMT on Saturday) in an old quarter in the centre of Marseille, France’s second-largest city. It took place less than a kilometre (a half-mile) from its old port. About 200 people have been evacuated from their homes in the area.

In 2018, two buildings in the centre of Marseille collapsed, killing eight people. That disaster cast a harsh light on the city’s housing standards with aid groups saying 40,000 people were living in shoddy structures.

However, authorities on Sunday appeared to rule out structural issues in the latest collapse.

“There was no danger notice for this building, and it is not in a neighbourhood identified as having substandard housing,” said Christophe Mirmand, prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhone region.

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