French authorities reported on early Monday (Apr 10) that they had found two bodies in the rubble of a building that collapsed in Marseille following a major explosion.
Rescue workers were scrambling to find at least six people still unaccounted for.
Emergency workers had been conducting rescue operations through Sunday night into the early hours of Monday with the help of a crane and lights. However, a persistent fire underneath the rubble hampered their work, and firefighters found it difficult to deploy sniffer dogs.
“The fire department announced in a brief statement that extracting the bodies from the site will take time due to the particular difficulties of intervention and that they had found the bodies.”
“The judicial authority will then proceed to identify” the victims, it added.
Earlier on Sunday, before the discovery of the bodies, local prosecutor Dominique Laurens told reporters that eight people “were not responding to phone calls”.
Five people from neighbouring buildings sustained minor injuries in the blast and collapse, which occurred around 12.40 am on Sunday
Mayor Benoit Payan’s Statement
“Tonight, the pain and sorrow are great,” said Marseille mayor Benoit Payan in a statement.
“All services of the city, as well as the state, are still at this very moment fully committed to continue the search,” he added.
Investigators are still determining the cause of the explosion, but they are considering the possibility that a gas leak caused it.
The blaze in the ruins of the building required more than 100 firefighters to battle it. People believe that there was one apartment on each floor.
Multiple witnesses described the explosion to AFP.
“I was sleeping and there was this huge blast that really shook the room. I was shocked awake as if I had been dreaming,” said Saveria Mosnier, who lives on a street near the site in the La Plaine neighbourhood.
“We very quickly smelled a strong gas odour that hung around, we could still smell it this morning,” she added.
Deputy Mayor Yannick Ohanessian told journalists at the scene that “several witnesses have reached us this morning to say there was a suspicious smell of gas”.