WORLD Death toll reaches six in French building collapse


Death toll reaches six in French building collapse


07:42, April 11, 2023

A member of the emergency services walks among the rubble at 'rue Tivoli' a day after a building collapsed in the street, in Marseille, southern France, on April 10, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Hope was fading to find two missing people in the rubble of a collapsed building in France's second city Marseille on Monday, after rescue workers recovered three bodies to take the death toll to six.

Almost 48 hours after an explosion at the apartment building, where residents reported a strong smell of gas, dozens of civil defence staff using drones, heat sensors and sniffer dogs worked through the debris, where a fire still smouldered.

Housing Minister Olivier Klein said at the scene earlier Monday that four bodies had been found. But within hours the emergency services announced that rescue workers had found a fifth and then a sixth victim.

"Work continues to identify" the victims and experts have started work on determining the cause of the explosion, investigators from the prosecutor's office said.

City prosecutors have also opened a manslaughter investigation.

The fire still burning under the rubble has made it hard for the dogs to detect survivors or bodies.

"The heart of the blaze is deep underneath and hard to reach with the hoses. And we can't spray too much water to avoid creating a sort of mud," said firefighter Adrien Schaller.

Marseille's mayor Benoit Payan ordered the town hall's flags to be flown at half-mast and books of condolence will be opened for locals to pay their respects to the victims.

On Monday evening, a prayer vigil was held at a church near the site of the explosion.

"Hope, even though it is dwindling, must remain until the end," Cardinal-archbishop of Marseille, Jean-Marc Aveline, told the congregation.

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