Crews Search for Survivors After Building Collapse

As many as 10 people are feared to be in the rubble in French port
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 9, 2023 12:15 PM CDT
French Crews Battle Fire in Search for Trapped Victims
Firefighters gather near the street where a residential building collapsed early Sunday.   (AP Photo/Bishr El Touni)

More than 100 firefighters worked to extinguish flames deep within debris to save up to 10 people possibly buried after a building exploded and collapsed early Sunday in the French port city of Marseille. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that at least four people were known to live in the collapsed building, the AP reports, and that as many as 10 may have been there, though persistent flames and fears of further collapse prevented rescuers from being able to search for victims some 15 hours after the explosion. "We must prepare ourselves to have victims," the city's mayor said. It was not known if anyone was killed, or what triggered the blast, the AP reports.

The five-story building collapsed shortly before 1am. "We cannot intervene in a very classic way," Darmanin said at the site. He said that the fire was burning just under the mounds of debris and that water and foam represent a danger to victims' survival. Firefighters, with the help of urban rescue experts, worked through the night and all day Sunday in a methodical race against time. The delicate operation aimed to keep firefighters safe, prevent further harm to people potentially trapped in the rubble, and not compromise vulnerable buildings nearby. Some 30 buildings in the area were evacuated, Darmanin said.

"We heard an explosion ... a very strong explosion which made us jump, and that's it," said Marie Ciret, who was among those evacuated. "We looked outside the window at what was happening. We saw smoke, stones, and people running." The building that collapsed is on a narrow street in the center of Marseille, adding to the difficulties for firefighters and rescue workers. The intense heat made it impossible to send in dog teams to search. Robots were reportedly being deployed, and a crane was brought in to clear rubble. "We're trying to drown the fire while preserving the lives of eventual victims under the rubble," said the commander of the Marseille fire brigade.

(More building collapse stories.)

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