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Marseille residents demand justice after buildings collapse

media Rescuers search for survivors after collapse of three buildings, 6 November 2018 REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Some three hundred people have broken up the final meeting of Marseille city council to express their anger, more than a month after the collapse of three dilapidated buildings that killed eight people.

Marseille residents faced off with dozens of police outside the city council Thursday, demanding that those responsible be brought to justice.

Demonstrators carried eight fake coffins made out of cardboard, to evoke the number of victims that died.

Despite authorities launching a public inquiry into the collapse of three buildings last month, many are skeptical that it will ever deliver justice.

On 5 November, two buildings containing apartments on Rue de l’Aubagne in the rundown Noailles district of the Mediterranean port suddenly collapsed. A third building, partially crumbled a few hours later.

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

Neglect and anger

One demonstrator denounced the "neglect of the council and its mayor," Jean-Claude Gaudin.

Residents say they had warned that the buildings were structurally unsound for years, but accused city authorities of doing little.

Under pressure, mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin opened Thursday's final council meeting with a minute of silence in tribute to the eight victims.

"I have heard your pain, your anger and criticism (...)," he told councilors and a carefully selected group of individuals.

"It is easy for some of us to want to take justice into our own hands," he said, urging residents to wait for the conclusions of last month's public inquiry into manslaughter.

Lack of housing

Gaudin also said he would ask the state to classify the collapse in Noailles district as a natural disaster.

Marseille city council had initially attributed the incident to heavy rain, provoking anger from residents, who want improvements to housing.

Local campaigners accuse the council of preferring prestige projects and attracting better-off residents. "20 million is spent on renovating the Plaine [a fancy neighbourhood], and not a single penny is spent on Noailles," a demonstrator told AFP news agency.

"12,000 people are sleeping rough," he said.

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