Emergency forces were searching for up to 10 people after a building collapsed in the French city of Marseille, but fires under the rubble made rescue operations very difficult.
A four-story house collapsed in the heart of the southern port city shortly after midnight. Parts of two adjacent houses also collapsed in the overnight collapse.
At least five people were injured, according to initial information. According to media reports, they were in the building next door.
The destruction was likely caused by an explosion, but authorities have yet to determine the cause.
Interior Minister Gerald Dalmanan said: “Today it is not possible to know the cause of this very large explosion. In any case, it was not known that the house was in danger of collapsing.
“We believe there are between four and 10 people under the rubble,” Dalmanin said on Sunday. About 30 homes have been evacuated as a precaution, he said.
It is not known exactly how many people were in the first collapsed building.
“There were certainly four people in the building,” said Dalmanin, who arrived at the scene of the accident on Sunday morning. “I don’t know if they were alive or dead.”
Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan stressed that the search for survivors is an absolute priority.
However, rescue operations are extremely difficult. A fire started under the rubble shortly after the house collapsed and was still burning at noon Sunday.
“We are facing a very rare phenomenon, a fire that is very hot and lasts for hours,” Payan said. Darmanin said the debris had virtually covered the entire fire.
“If there are survivors, of course we can’t proceed in a very classical way, because the water and foam that firefighters use should not prevent survival.”
Fires are also a problem for deployed rescue dogs. The smell of fire and the high temperature made it impossible to find the buried people. At first, no human traces were found, Payang said.
“It makes no sense. No conclusions can be drawn at this time.”
The incident, which occurred in the early hours of Easter Sunday, provoked a reaction of shock and horror from neighbors interviewed by broadcaster BFMTV. They said they heard loud noises and screams.
French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that he was touched and thinking of all those affected and their families. Prime Minister Elizabeth Born also expressed concern on Twitter.
https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/disaster-and-emergency/fire-hinders-rescuers-after-building-collapse-in-france-c-10297858 Fire Disrupts Rescue Teams After Building Collapses in France