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MARSEILLE: The collapse of a four-storey building in the southern French port city of Marseille on Sunday (Apr 9) left at least two people injured, but a fire was preventing rescue workers in their search for more possible victims, officials said.

The collapse of the building in central Marseille’s La Plaine district occurred at around 12.40am, Mayor Benoit Payan told reporters, damaging parts of the two surrounding buildings.

“There is currently a fire in the rubble of (building) 17. This fire prevents us from sending dogs and teams to search for possible victims that could be under the rubble,” he added.

Payan also said two people were injured among 11 evacuated from two neighbouring buildings damaged by the collapse.

The streets around the building were cordoned off and choked with dust, with many emergency personnel on site, according to an AFP photographer.

Regional prefect Christophe Mirmand told AFP there were “strong suspicions” that an explosion caused the collapse, possibly a gas leak.

“But we must remain very cautious about the causes at this stage,” he said.

An investigation has been opened to find the cause of the collapse, officials said.

There were a hundred firefighters on site, said the commander of the marine firefighters.

“The priority is to extinguish the fire and clear the rubble to find people possibly underneath it,” he said.


Other buildings on the street were evacuated as a safety measure, with residents sheltering at a school, Mirmand said.

Gilles, who lives on a side street near the fallen building, told AFP the sound of the crash “was huge”.

“It sounded like an explosion,” said Gilles, who declined to provide his last name.

Another major structural collapse occurred in Marseille in November 2018, when two dilapidated buildings in the working-class district of Noailles caved in, killing eight people.

The accident cast a light on the city’s housing standards.

But both Mayor Payan and regional prefect Mirmand appeared to rule out structural issues in the latest collapse, given that it was in a neighbourhood known for its bars and nightlife.

“There was no danger code for this building, and it is not in a neighbourhood identified as having substandard housing,” said Mirmand.

“To my knowledge, there is no particular problem with this building,” Payan said.