On Sunday, a building in Marseille, France collapsed after a powerful gas explosion, leaving at least two people dead and six unaccounted for. The city’s fire department reportedly found the two bodies from the debris of the collapsed buildings. It is uncertain if the two bodies have been included in the eight people who were possibly trapped due to the explosion. French Housing Authority said that 179 people had been evacuated from the site.
The cause of the explosion remains unknown. Investigators are looking into the possibility that it was caused by a gas leak. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that the fire burning in the debris has made it difficult for rescue teams to conduct their operation. Approximately 30 surrounding buildings have been evacuated.
Local residents reported hearing a loud explosion, followed by dust in the air. One witness described the incident as “exhausting and completely insane,” with an “avalanche of people panicking in the street.” French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences and gratitude to the firefighters and rescuers mobilised.
The Marseille prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into “unintentional injuries,” and a fund of €100,000 ($110,000) has been provided to help the victims of the blast, according to a BFMTV report. The city has experienced similar incidents in the past, with several buildings collapsing in Marseille’s Noailles district in 2018.
Despite the difficulties caused by the ongoing fire, rescue workers have not given up hope of finding survivors. Mayor Benoit Payan said that emergency workers were carrying out a “surgical” operation at the site to “protect at all costs” any potential survivors. The building was believed to have one apartment on each floor, and the eight people who remain missing are thought to be residents. Five people from neighbouring buildings sustained minor injuries in the blast and collapse, which occurred around 12:40 am on Sunday. The fire department has said that “given the particular difficulties of intervention, the extraction (of the bodies from the site) will take time.”