Col­lapsed Mar­seille build­ings ‘may have claimed eight lives’

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

FRENCH of­fi­cials vowed to in­spect all Mar­seille build­ings “un­suit­able” for habi­ta­tion as anger rose over the col­lapse of two build­ings in the Mediter­ranean city, where up to eight peo­ple are feared dead.

A fifth body was re­cov­ered on Wed­nes­day morn­ing un­der rub­ble of the di­lap­i­dated build­ings, which crum­bled sud­denly on Mon­day morn­ing in Noailles, a work­ing class dis­trict in the heart of the port city.

The dead in­clude two women and three men, said pros­e­cu­tor Xavier Tarabeux. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties, a to­tal of five to eight peo­ple could have died in the col­lapse.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner told law­mak­ers in Paris that he had or­dered a build­ing by build­ing au­dit be­fore an “am­bi­tious pro­gramme for en­sur­ing safe con­di­tions” along with Mar­seille au­thor­i­ties.

“Nearly 6,000 prop­er­ties have been iden­ti­fied as at risk” in the city, he said, rep­re­sent­ing some 44,000 lodg­ings in lower-class neigh­bour­hoods, call­ing the sit­u­a­tion un­ac­cept­able.

Res­cuers have been del­i­cately search­ing what is left of the build­ings. A third ad­join­ing build­ing par­tially col­lapsed on Mon­day night.

Res­i­dents said on Tues­day the struc­tural risks of the build­ings and oth­ers like them were widely known, but that city of­fi­cials did lit­tle when alerted about them.

“Ev­ery­body knew about the prob­lems with the two col­lapsed build­ings,” said Pa­trick La­coste, a spokesman for a lo­cal hous­ing ac­tion group.

“Peo­ple died for noth­ing, though we knew.”

“It’s hell here, they know that it’s crap and now peo­ple die for noth­ing,” said lo­cal res­i­dent Toufik Ben Rhouma.

The dis­as­ter, he added, was “100 per cent the fault of city hall”.

“It’s been 10 years that I have been liv­ing here and I have never had any­one come and in­spect my apart­ment,” said a res­i­dent named So­phie. even

Her neigh­bour said she hadn’t seen any in­spec­tor in 27 years.

On Tues­day af­ter­noon, some res­i­dents re­turned to their homes in neigh­bour­ing build­ings to pack up be­long­ings in bags and suit­cases, some leav­ing car­ry­ing tele­vi­sions with them, a re­porter said.

‘It could have been me’

Only one of the build­ings was oc­cu­pied, as the two oth­ers were in such a bad state that they had been con­demned.

Google Maps images taken in re­cent months showed the col­lapsed build­ings had large cracks in t heir fa­cades.

Peo­ple had been liv­ing in nine of the 10 apart­ments in one of the build­ings, while a shop oc­cu­pied the ground floor.

A young waiter watched the scene with tears in his eyes, anx­ious for news of an Ital­ian woman who lived in the build­ing.

“She was a great girl, she used to come and study at the bar,” he said, with­out giv­ing his name.

Ab­dou Ali, 34, came in search of his mother af­ter she did not come to col­lect her youngest son from school on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

“I haven’t had any news,” he said, wan­der­ing among the res­cuers.

So­phie Dor­beaux mean­while said she had left the block on Sun­day night to stay with her par­ents be­cause her door, like sev­eral oth­ers, was not open­ing or clos­ing prop­erly be­cause of the build­ing’s struc­tural prob­lems.

“The walls had been mov­ing for sev­eral weeks and cracks had ap­peared,” the 25-year-old phi­los­o­phy stu­dent said.

“It could have been me,” she added, vis­i­bly shaken.

Mar­seille city au­thor­i­ties, who have evac­u­ated and re­housed 100 res­i­dents from nearby build­ings as a pre­cau­tion, be­lieve heavy rain may have con­trib­uted to the col­lapse.

But the in­ci­dent – rare in a ma­jor West­ern city – has al­ready sparked a po­lit­i­cal row over the qual­ity of hous­ing avail­able to Mar­seille’s poor­est res­i­dents.

The neigh­bour­hood is home to many build­ings in a sim­i­larly di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion, some of them run by slum land­lords.

Mar­seille au­thor­i­ties be­gan a vast up­grade plan for the city cen­tre in 2011.

But a 2015 gov­ern­ment re­port said about 100,000 Mar­seille res­i­dents were liv­ing in hous­ing that was dan­ger­ous to their health or se­cu­rity.

“It’s un­think­able that such things hap­pen in our time,” said Chris­tian Gou­verneur, who owns a flat in an apart­ment block op­po­site the col­lapsed build­ings.

LOIC AEDO/AFP

Fire­men re­moves rub­ble at the site where two build­ings col­lapsed on Mon­day in Mar­seille, south­ern France.

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