A man died and five people were injured on Tuesday, December 7, in the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed overnight in Sanary-sur-Mer (Var). The man, in his thirties, had been located, unconscious, by the rescue teams. “They were able to extract him but he was declared dead”, said Captain Aurélia Mannaioni of the Var fire department. Two people were still actively sought.
Shortly before, rescuers had been able to bring out of the rubble a woman and her baby, injured but alive. “We took over two hours to get this baby out. He is currently supported by teams from Samu who are on site. He is fine “, specified, during a press point, Colonel Eric Grohin of the Var firefighters. The explosion also left three lightly injured who were taken to hospital quickly after the arrival of help.
102 firefighters from @ SDIS83, @MarinesPompiers@ Firefighters_13 have been engaged since last night with partners and competing forces on a building collapse in @sanaryofficiel. Col Hc @grohin_e# DDSIS83 and @ DLain83#PCASDIS are on site pic.twitter.com/0pnpQxvwe9
– VAR Fire Brigade (@ SDIS83) December 7, 2021
The firefighters helped by dog teams continued their search to find two people still missing in the rubble. It would be “Of a mother, an elderly person, and her son” who lived on the ground floor, according to the director of cabinet of the prefect of Var Houda Vernhet.
“We don’t think there were more people in this building”, said the mayor of Sanary-sur-Mer, Daniel Alsters. “Colleagues there questioned the neighborhood and estimated that five people could be under the rubble, but it is hypothetical. We do not know if these five people were really present when the building collapsed ”, for his part indicated a police officer of the police station of Sanary-sur-Mer.
“Strong smell of gas”
The explosion took place at around 3:50 a.m. and was heard for five miles around, according to police on the spot. “The origin of the explosion is unknown”, added the police officer of the city police station, adding that people heard a big “boom”. “The emergency services arrived on site detected a strong smell of gas” and the gas supply has been cut throughout the perimeter around the building, said the prefecture of Var.
Located on the port of Sanary-sur-Mer – a city on the Mediterranean coast of about 15,000 inhabitants -, between two creperies, the three-storey building is nothing more than a heap of rubble. Two buildings located on either side of the one destroyed by the explosion were also damaged by the blast. At least one of them was evacuated, according to the prefecture.
The emergency services, including two dog teams and groups specializing in rescues, clearing or in perilous environments, were busy Tuesday morning relentlessly to find other victims. Some 70 firefighters were mobilized for this operation and they received reinforcements from the neighboring department of Bouches-du-Rhône. The prefecture has set up an operational center to coordinate operations.
The last deadliest building collapse in south-eastern France occurred in Marseille, when two substandard buildings collapsed in the city center, killing eight, on November 5, 2018.