French officials pledged to inspect all Marseilles buildings that are "unsuitable for residence" when anger rose over the collapse of two buildings in the Mediterranean city, where up to eight people are feared dead.
A fifth body was recovered Wednesday morning under the rubble of run-down buildings that suddenly crumbled Monday morning in Noailles, a working-class district in the heart of the port city.
The dead include two women and three men, prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux told AFP. According to the authorities, a total of five to eight people could have died in the collapse.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told the Paris legislators that he had ordered a building under construction supervision against an "ambitious secure-security program" with the Marseille authorities.
In the city "almost 6 000 real estate as endangered" were classified. This included 44,000 low-housing units, which makes the situation unacceptable.
The rescue workers have carefully searched what is left of the buildings.
A third outbuilding partially collapsed on Monday evening.
Residents said the structural risks of the buildings were widely known on Tuesday, but the city authorities did little to attract their attention.
"Everyone knew about the problems with the two collapsed buildings," said Patrick Lacoste, a spokesperson for a local housing group.
"People died in vain, even though we knew it."
"It's hell here, they know it's crap and now people are dying for nothing," local resident Toufik Ben Rhouma said. The catastrophe is "100 percent the city hall".
"I've lived here for 10 years and I've never had anyone come by to inspect my apartment," said a woman who identified herself as Sophie. Her neighbor said she has not seen an inspector for 27 years.
On Tuesday afternoon, some residents returned to their homes in neighboring buildings to pack their belongings in bags and suitcases, and some had televisions, according to an AFP reporter.
"It could have been me"
Only one of the buildings was occupied, as the other two were in such poor condition that they had been convicted.
The pictures taken by Google Maps in recent months showed that the collapsed buildings had large cracks on their facades.
Nine out of ten apartments lived in one of the buildings while a shop was located on the ground floor.
A young waiter watched the scene with tears in his eyes, worried about the news of an Italian woman living in the building.
"She was a great girl, she came and studied at the bar," he said, without giving his name.
Abdou Ali, 34, was looking for his mother after she did not pick up her youngest son from school on Monday afternoon.
"I had no news," he said, wandering among the rescuers.
Sophie Dorbeaux told the AFP that she had left the block on Sunday evening to stay with her parents because, like some others, her door did not open or close properly due to the building's structural issues.
"The walls were in motion for several weeks and cracks had appeared," said the 25-year-old philosophy student.
"It could have been me," she added visibly shaken.
The Municipality of Marseille, which has evacuated and relocated 100 residents as a precaution from nearby buildings, believes heavy rain could have contributed to the collapse.
But the incident – rarely in a Western metropolis – has already led to a political dispute over the quality of housing for the poorest of the city of Marseille.
The neighborhood is home to many buildings in a similarly rundown condition, some run by slum owners.
The authorities of Marseille started in 2011 a major redevelopment plan for the city center.
A government report from 2015 states that around 100,000 people in Marseilles lived in apartments that were dangerous to their health or safety.
"It is unthinkable that such things happen in our time," said Christian Gouverneur, who owns a flat in a block of flats opposite the collapsed buildings.
© Agence France-Presse