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New demolitions halt search in deadly French building collapse

New demolitions halt search in deadly French building collapse

Pressure grew on Marseille’s mayor and other officials Thursday, accused of ignoring warnings about unsafe housing, as hopes faded of finding two people still missing after a deadly building collapse in the southern French port city.

Six bodies have been recovered from the mound of rubble where two buildings suddenly crumbled on Monday. Authorities believe two people may still be trapped.

Rescue workers are being forced to work slowly because the collapse destabilised other buildings along the Rue d’Aubagne.

The search resumed Thursday afternoon after it was halted Wednesday so two other buildings could be pulled down.

Chances of finding any survivors “are thin, very thin, but real,” said Charles-Henri Garie, who commands the water brigades of the port city’s fire department.

Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin defended his administration’s efforts to deal with thousands of dilapidated lodgings in the city, while calling for parliament to make it easier to compel private owners to undertake necessary maintenance or make improvements.

Citing “terribly long, complex and costly procedures” for renovating or demolishing squalid buildings, Gaudin said “some people are taking advantage of this in opposition to society’s interests.”

But he told a news conference he would not heed calls to resign, saying 35 million euros ($40 million) had been spent demolishing or renovating social housing blocks since 2005.