Up to 10 feared trapped under collapsed building after 'explosion' in Marseille

Up to 10 people are feared to be trapped under the rubble of an apartment block that collapsed following an apparent explosion in Marseille.

It is not yet known if anyone was killed, but Mayor Benoit Payan warned: ‘We have to be prepared to have fatalities in this terrible tragedy.’

A local grocer who gave his name as Aziz told AFP ‘everything shook, you could see people running and there was smoke everywhere, the building fell onto the street’ shortly before 1am on Sunday.

Five people were taken to hospital with serious but not life threatening injuries and a sixth person was being treated for shock.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said residents from some 30 surrounding buildings were evacuated.

He added that between four and 10 people are thought to be trapped in the rubble following what he described as a ‘very large blast’, saying: ‘We don’t know if they’re alive or dead.’

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More than 100 rescuers worked through the night to access and tackle a huge fire burning a few meters under the debris.

The building that collapsed is located on a narrow street in the centre of Marseille, adding to an array of difficulties for firefighters.

Robots were reportedly being deployed to assist with the search and rescue efforts after the intense heat made it impossible to send in sniffer dogs.

Marseille fire chief Lionel Mathieu told reporters: ‘We’re trying to drown the fire while preserving the lives of eventual victims under the rubble.’

Mr Payan said ‘firefighters are gauging minute by minute the best way to put out the fire’, before adding grimly: ‘We must prepare to have victims.’

He said an explosion was the ‘probable’ cause of the building collapse, but stressed ‘no conclusions can be drawn’ without an investigation.

The collapsed building is located in an old quarter in the centre of France’s second-largest city. The noise from the explosion resounded in other neighborhoods. Nearby streets were blocked off.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne both tweeted their thoughts for people affected and thanks to the firefighters.

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