The body of a man has been found in the wreckage of two buildings that collapsed in the French city of Marseille on Monday, interior minister Christophe Castaner said.
Emergency crews were searching for as many as eight people feared buried in the debris, Marseille public prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux added on Tuesday.
The buildings — one condemned and allegedly vacant, the other containing apartments — gave way after 9am local time. In the spot where they had stood, a large gap appeared once the dust and debris settled.
Throughout the night, emergency services scoured through the 15-metre deep rubble left by the collapse.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner said eight people are missing from the building and that he was “not very optimistic” that they would be found.
Another two people who were believed to be on the street at the time of the building collapse are also missing, said Renaud Muselier, president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
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“There’s not much chance that we’ll find pockets where anyone might have survived,” Castaner said on Monday evening. He is expected to make a further statement this morning.
After working all night, search teams removed parts of the building from the road under which they found a crushed car.
Muselier said among the missing was a woman who had failed to collect her daughter from school and another woman who rarely left her home in the building.
At number 65 rue d’Augagne, nine of the ten apartments were full.
Marseille fire services said two people who were in the street when the buildings collapsed were treated for light injuries.
Fire officials deliberately brought down most of a third building due to apprehensions the unsteady structure might cave on top of search crews and sniffer dogs combing the rubble of the other buildings. The late afternoon demolition released more dust clouds.
Authorities said one building had been condemned as substandard and was assumed to be unoccupied, but the other was inhabited.
Thick dust covered cars around the site near Marseille’s famous Old Port.
Images of the buildings before they collapsed, visible on Google Street View, showed that one of the buildings was clearly in poor repair, with boarded-up windows and large visible cracks on the facade before it collapsed.
Sabine Bernasconi, the local mayor for that part of Marseille, said one of the buildings was subject to an evacuation order, but could not say for sure that squatters were not using it.
The regional prefecture urged people to avoid the area and make way for emergency services.