At least four dead in residential gas explosion in Marseille
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At least four people have died in a powerful explosion that occurred in a residential building in central Marseille. The search is still ongoing for five missing persons in a race against the clock.
On the night of Saturday to Sunday, many people in the area - a central district of the city - were awakened by an explosion. The four-story building collapsed in the incident, and initially, it was reported that eight people were missing and five people in neighboring buildings were injured.
Two nearby apartment blocks partially collapsed a few hours later, but there were no further reports of injuries from the secondary collapses.
According to the BBC, four bodies had been found by Monday afternoon. Local authorities said four others remained unaccounted for and that rescue efforts were ongoing.
Five people from neighbouring buildings have been treated for minor injuries. 200 people had to be evacuated from their homes.
The rescue operation has been further complicated by fires in the remains of the four-story building, which have turned out to be difficult to extinguish.
Around 100 firefighters were working on the scene that burned under the rubble throughout Sunday.
However; Mayor Benoît Payan did not want to give up USAR efforts even after more than a day had passed.
"There is still hope, and as long as there is hope, we will not stop searching," he said on Monday morning.
A gas leak is suspected to be the cause. Fire department chief Lionel Mathieu said the fires have not reached all parts of the rubble.
After the incident, a strong gas odor was reported to have spread in the neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons License. Photo of the waterfront in the center of Marseille.