“The hope of finding survivors is still there,” Cities and Housing Minister Olivier Klein told reporters earlier Monday, after meeting with rescuers at the site. More than 100 firefighters were mobilized for the searches.
Rescuers used a crane to move heavy blocks of concrete and debris with great care so as not to hurt people who might still be trapped underneath, then continued the search with their hands.
Marseille mayor Benoit Payan tweeted on Monday that “the pain and sorrow is great”. He expressed his thoughts to the families of the victims and “those who are suffering”.
“Rescue and search operations are continuing, unabated,” he said.
An investigation has been opened for unintentional injuries, at least initially ruling out possible criminal intent. A gas explosion was among the lines of investigation, prosecutor Dominique Laurens said Sunday evening.
The collapse occurred shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday in an old neighborhood in the center of Marseille, France’s second-largest city, less than a kilometer (half a mile) from its iconic old port. About 200 people have been evacuated from their homes in the area.
In 2018, two buildings in the center of Marseille collapsed, killing eight people. These buildings were poorly maintained, which is not the case with the one that collapsed on Sunday, the interior minister said.