Up to eight feared dead in Marseille building collapse

Two buildings collapsed suddenly not far from Marseille city centre

Marseille fire services said two people who were in the street when the buildings collapsed were treated for light injuries.

Sniffer dogs were still searching through the 15-metre (50-foot) pile of wreckage on Rue d'Aubagne, a narrow shopping street which now resembles the scene of an natural disaster.

A completely flattened auto was dug out, an indication of the force with which the building came crashing down in what witnesses said was a matter of seconds.

Arriving at the site Tuesday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said "air pockets" under the debris meant there's "hope to locate and find someone that can be saved".

Marseille Public prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux has confirmed the bodies of three men and two women have pulled from the rubble that is 15m deep in places.

Images taken before the collapse show large cracks in the facade of number 63; a former resident, retired college lecturer Mark Mason, told the Guardian he had been forced to sell his flat in the building to the council in 2012 under a compulsory purchase order after the first storey floor collapsed and chunks of masonry began falling from the building. He has had no news of her since Monday. "It could have been me", she said.

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City officials have evacuated more than 100 nearby buildings following the collapse, which authorities believe may have been caused by heavy rains, AFP reports.

"The walls had been moving for several weeks and cracks had appeared", the 25-year-old philosophy student said. She told AFP that she had stayed with her parents the night before the collapse because numerous doors in the building would not close.

However, according to neighbors, it is at the time of the tragedy could be people, particularly the homeless.

Marseille authorities launched a vast upgrade plan for the city centre in 2011.

Leading left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melonchon, who visited the scene Monday, had reportedly been critical of the city's housing policy.

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