Explosion Takes Down Buildings In France, Eight People Missing

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At least eight people have been declared missing after an explosion Sunday rocked through a residential building in France, causing its collapse and the partial collapse of the buildings next door.

Just after midnight Sunday morning, an explosion rocked through the seaside city of Marseille, bringing more than 100 firefighters to the scene in a desperate attempt to put out flames and search for survivors, according to the Associated Press. After 17 hours of battling intense heat, however, “the situation [was] not yet stabilized,” Marseille Prosecutor Dominique Laurens told reporters at a news conference Sunday evening, according to the AP.

Laurens confirmed to the BBC at least eight people were missing in the flaming rubble, telling the outlet they “were not responding to phone calls.” As a result, Marseille mayor, Benoit Payan, told the outlet, “we have to be prepared to have victims.”

Five people were injured in the explosion with hundreds more evacuated from 30 nearby buildings, according to the Associated Press. As firefighters worked to both put out the flames and search for survivors, they found their efforts hampered by the lack of structural integrity in the rubble and the “intense heat and dust” which kept search dogs away, BBC reported.

Lauren added the firefighters “are really in a complicated situation, dangerous for them.” Work is progressing but with safety precautions, she added, per the AP. In order to assist with rescue efforts, robots were reportedly being called in and cranes were being utilized to clear away rubble.

“We cannot intervene in a very classic way,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the AP.

“We’re trying to drown the fire while preserving the lives of eventual victims under the rubble,” Lionel Mathieu, commander of the Marseille fire brigade, stated, according to the outlet. (RELATED: ‘I Thought It Was The End Of Me’: Woman Fell Into Vat Of Molten Chocolate In Factory Blast That Killed 7)

Though no cause for the blast has been determined, authorities believe the explosion was the result of a gas leak, according to the BBC.