Between four and 10 people are believed to be trapped under rubble in the southern French port city of Marseille after a building collapsed early on Sunday, according to French authorities.
A “violent explosion” at around 12:30am local time is believed to be the cause of the collapse, according to Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan. Investigations are ongoing.
Eighty people have already been evacuated, rescuers told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Efforts are being complicated by the dangerous situation on the ground with rubble having to be removed before the fire can be fully put out, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told BFM, during a visit to the scene.
Darmanin said rescuers are also concerned about firefighting water endangering the lives of any buried survivors.
Local residents described hearing an explosion, with lots of dust and a smell of gas in the air.
“It was exhausting and completely insane. I saw an avalanche of people panicking in the street and then I started running like crazy,” an unnamed witness told BFM.
Approximately thirty of the surrounding buildings have also been evacuated, according to Darmanin.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that his thoughts were with those impacted. “Thoughts with Marseille, where a building on rue Tivoli collapsed last night. I am thinking of those affected and their loved ones. An investigation is continuing with significant resources deployed. Thank you to the firefighters and rescuers mobilized,” he said.
A fund of 100,000 euros ($110,000) has been provided to help the victims of the blast, according to the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, with the money coming from regional authorities, BFMTV reported.
BFMTV also reports that the Marseille prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into “unintentional injuries.”
Marseille has suffered such incidents before. In 2018, CNN reported on the collapse of several buildings in the city’s Noailles district, which killed at least four people.
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