PARIS (AP) — French authorities said a building collapsed Saturday morning in northern France’s city of Lille and the human toll was limited thanks to a local resident’s advance warning.
Lille firefighters said they rescued one person from the rubble with only light injuries.
The building in the center of the city was evacuated during the night after a man coming back from a night out saw cracks appearing in the structure and reported the issue to emergency services, the Lille prefecture said.
The fire service responded and created a cordon around the “zone of peril,” the prefecture said. The building, divided into commercial and residential parts, was four stories high.
Searches continued Saturday to confirm if there were any casualties or fatalities before an investigation begins into why the building collapsed.
Lille Mayor Martine Aubry told French broadcaster BFM TV that the man’s actions saved lives. Authorities have not named him.
“I am still shaking because if this gentleman hadn’t come home at 3 a.m. and contacted us, we wouldn’t have had this reaction and, well, there would have obviously been deaths,” she said.
“He then warned the municipal police and the firefighters, who decided to evacuate the building, believing that there was a real risk,” Aubry said.
In 2018, two dilapidated buildings collapsed in the southern city of Marseille, killing eight people and triggering harsh criticism of local authorities and the French government.
France’s interior minister at the time, Christophe Castaner, responded by ordering a citywide building-by-building audit as well as a program to guarantee safer conditions.
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