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France

Sixth body found in collapsed Marseille buildings

media Emergency services at the site of the collapse HO, Loic AEDO / BMPM/SM Aedo / AFP

A sixth body was found on Wednesday in the rubble of the three buildings that collapsed in the southern city of Marseille earlier this week. The local council has come under fire in the light of the tragedy, with critics citing a 2015 report that found that 13 percent of the city's privately owned accommodation was unfit for habitation.

Rescuers found the body of a man on Wednesday.

They had already found the corpses of three men and two women.

Five residents and three visitors are believed to have been in the one inhabited building when it collapsed, meaning that two have yet to be found.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned on Monday that there was "little chance of finding air pockets" but rescue efforts continued on Wednesday.

The street in Noailles, a poor area in the city centre with many dilapidated buildings, is on a steep slope, leading a third building to collapse after the first two had done so.

The emergency services fear that more could do so and have moved 105 residents of the street to nearby hotels.

City council criticised

Two of the three buildings were empty and boarded up but nine of the 10 flats in the third were inhabited.

The city council, headed by right-wing mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin, has said that heavy rain may have caused the collapse but local housing campaigners have accused the local authority of years of neglect.

Large cracks were visible on the buildings' facades before they collapsed.

One of the empty buildings was purchased by the city council several years ago and the area has been waiting for decades for promises of renovation to be fulfilled.

A report commissioned by the government in 2015 found that 42,400 of the city's 377,000 private homes were unfit for habitation.

Local campaigners called for a demonstration for "decent homes for all", accusing the council of prefering prestige projects and attracting better-off residents to improvements to the housing stock, especially in areas such as Noailles with high immigrant populations.

Castaner told MPs on Tuesday that he had ordered an audit of buildings to prepare an "ambitious programme to ensure safe conditions" along with the local authority.

He put the number of lodgings at risk in Marseille at 44,000.

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