Building collapses in French city of Lille after last-minute evacuation

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French authorities said a building collapsed early on Saturday morning in northern France’s city of Lille, shortly after it was evacuated thanks to a local resident’s advance warning, though one person was still reported missing.

Firefighters said they were focusing their efforts on finding the missing resident, a local doctor, adding that there was “a strong chance he is trapped under the rubble”.

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 was divided into commercial and residential parts.

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. 

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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