Marseille build­ing col­lapse: fifth body found in rub­ble

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Kim Will­sher in Paris and agen­cies

A fifth body has been found in the rub­ble of two di­lap­i­dated build­ings that col­lapsed in the cen­tre of Marseille ear­lier this week.

Emer­gency work­ers are con­tin­u­ing to sift through the ru­ins for an­other three peo­ple who are still be­lieved to be miss­ing since the two build­ings crum­bled sud­denly on Mon­day morn­ing.

The dis­cov­ery of a fifth vic­tim at dawn on Wed­nes­day came as an­gry lo­cal peo­ple ac­cused Marseille of­fi­cials of leav­ing the city’s poorer res­i­dents liv­ing in dan­ger­ous hous­ing.

As the po­lit­i­cal row grew, the in­te­rior min­is­ter, Christophe Cas­taner, an­nounced he had or­dered a build­ing-by-build­ing au­dit in Mar­seilles be­fore launch­ing what he called an “am­bi­tious pro­gramme” to en­sure safer con­di­tions.

Res­cue work has been ham­pered by heavy rain, and ev­i­dence sug­gests the col­lapse has desta­bilised neigh­bour­ing build­ings.

“We are con­tin­u­ing our work in the hope of find­ing sur­vivors,” Charles-Henri Garie, head of the Marseille fire ser­vice, told BFM TV.

Two build­ings con­tain­ing apart­ments at num­bers 63 and 65 Rue de l’Aubagne sud­denly col­lapsed in the run­down Noailles district of the Mediter­ranean port on Mon­day morn­ing. A third build­ing, num­ber 67, par­tially crum­bled a few hours later.

Only one of the build­ings, num­ber 65, was oc­cu­pied. The oth­ers were so di­lap­i­dated they had been con­demned and were boarded up, though lo­cals said they were fre­quently used by squat­ters.

Res­i­dents say they had warned the build­ings were struc­turally un­sound for years, but ac­cused city au­thor­i­ties of do­ing lit­tle. Im­ages taken be­fore the col­lapse show large cracks in the fa­cade of num­ber 63; a for­mer res­i­dent, re­tired col­lege lec­turer Mark Ma­son, told the Guardian he had been forced to sell his flat in the build­ing to the coun­cil in 2012 un­der a com­pul­sory pur­chase or­der af­ter the first storey floor col­lapsed and chunks of ma­sonry be­gan fall­ing from the build­ing.

“Ev­ery­body knew about the prob­lems with the two col­lapsed build­ings,” Pa­trick La­coste, a spokesman for a lo­cal hous­ing ac­tion group, said. “Peo­ple died for noth­ing even though we knew,” he added.

A lo­cal res­i­dent, Toufik Ben Rhouma, blamed Marseille city hall for the dis­as­ter. “It’s hell here ... and now peo­ple die for noth­ing,” he said.

“It’s been 10 years that I’ve been liv­ing here and I’ve never had any­one come and in­spect my apart­ment,” an­other lo­cal res­i­dent called So­phie told AFP.

Marseille city coun­cil has evac­u­ated and re­housed 100 res­i­dents from neigh­bour­ing build­ings and says heavy rain may have con­trib­uted to the col­lapse. Noailles, in the cen­tral 1st ar­rondisse­ment has sev­eral di­lap­i­dated build­ings, some run by slum land­lords. In 2011 the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties be­gan a plan to ren­o­vate the city cen­tre, but a 2015 gov­ern­ment re­port sug­gested that 100,000 Marseille res­i­dents were liv­ing in hous­ing dan­ger­ous to their health or se­cu­rity.

Chris­tian Ni­col, a for­mer build­ings in­spec­tor who over­saw the 2015 re­port, told RTL ra­dio this rep­re­sented around 13% of homes. He added that the fig­ures had changed lit­tle since mak­ing Marseille the Euro­pean city with “the most de­cay­ing hous­ing”.

Marseille Pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor Xavier Tarabeux has con­firmed the bod­ies of three men and two women have pulled from the rub­ble that is 15m deep in places. He said it was be­lieved that eight peo­ple – five res­i­dents and three vis­i­tors - were in num­ber 65 when it col­lapsed.

Pho­to­graph: Alain Robert/Sipa/Rex/Shut­ter­stock

Res­cue work has been ham­pered by heavy rain.

Pho­to­graph: Alain Robert/Sipa/Rex/Shut­ter­stock

Res­i­dents ac­com­pa­nied by po­lice and fire­fight­ers re­cover their be­long­ings from thecol­lapsed build­ings.

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