Marseille Buildings Collapse, and Rescuers Comb Ruins
MARSEILLE, France — Two buildings collapsed into a pile of rubble and beams on Monday in Marseille, and the authorities said they were in “a race against the clock” to find anyone who might be trapped in the ruins.
The buildings — one condemned, the other inhabited — gave way sometime after 9 a.m. In the spot where they had stood, a large gap appeared as the dust and debris settled.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said Monday evening that it was unknown if anyone had been killed or trapped. But two people who were on the street when the buildings collapsed were treated for slight injuries, the Marseille fire services said.
After the collapse, fire officials deliberately brought down most of a third building out of concern that the unstable structure might topple onto search crews and dogs sent in to comb the rubble of the other buildings.
The authorities said one building had been condemned as substandard and was supposed to be unoccupied, but the other had apartments.
The French housing minister, Julien Denormandie, was at the scene and said he could rule out the possibility that people were trapped.
"It’s a race against the clock,” Mr. Denormandie said. “The urgent task is to determine whether there are people we can save."
Old images of the buildings, near Marseille’s Old Port, showed that one had five floors and the other six. One of the buildings was clearly in poor repair, with boarded-up windows and large visible cracks on the facade.
One local official, Sabine Bernasconi, said one of the buildings had been subject to an evacuation order, but she could not say for sure whether squatters might have been using it.
Neighbors said they feared there were people inside the other building when it crashed down, Agence France-Presse reported.
“There was a Comorian lady — every morning she took her two children to school and she got back just before the explosion,” said Nacer Sellani, manager of a shop across the street.
Djaffar Nour, who was grocery shopping down the street, said the collapse was “a matter of seconds.”
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