Eight people are not responding to phone calls and are believed to be under the rubble of two buildings that collapsed early Sunday in the southern French city of Marseille, local officials said.
Marseille prosecutor Dominique Laurens said the cause of the explosion was not yet known.
She said in a press conference that the collapse caused a fire that complicated rescue efforts and investigations and was not controlled.
Television footage showed clouds of smoke billowing from the rubble as firefighters tried to douse the flames and sniffer dogs were used to try to locate the victims.
“We have nothing, not even an ID. We have lost everything,” said a man who was given his name only as Roland in an interview with local newspaper La Provence. He managed to get out of the building at 15 Tivoli Street with his wife and two children before collapsing with an adjacent building.
A third building partially collapsed.
Five people were taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who visited the site, said 30 buildings in the area had been evacuated.
In 2018, about 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) from the tragedy, three buildings deemed uninhabitable collapsed, killing eight people.
The mayor of Marseille said no comparison could be made, while the public prosecutor said the buildings that collapsed on Sunday had no known structural problems.
“Thoughts are with Marseille,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a message on Twitter.
(Covering) Lily Forody Editing by Allison Williams, Frances Kerry and Barbara Lewis
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