According to the commander of relief operations, Stéphane Beauventre, “there is a lot of convergence so that we are on the person we have been looking for since noon”, a 45-year-old doctor, who had been given an apartment in the building for the weekend.
“His body went to the forensic institute. It will be clearly identified later,” he said.
The victim was located shortly before 1:30 a.m., a police source said. The prefecture confirmed the discovery of a deceased person.
Two three-storey buildings, one of which was under construction, had collapsed on Saturday around 9:15 a.m. on rue Pierre-Mauroy, a shopping street in the city center, but most of the inhabitants had been able to be evacuated thanks to the alert launched by one of them a few hours earlier.
Several politicians had initially indicated that there were “a priori” no victims, before the firefighters announced that they were looking for this doctor whose car was parked on the spot and who had not presented himself to his appointment.
Another person, slightly injured, could be evacuated above the rubble on Saturday afternoon, according to the emergency services.
– “Lifting of the device” –
“We have just passed the dogs again for a final removal of doubt. We are going to proceed with the removal of the entire device”, said Lieutenant-Colonel Stéphane Beauventre during the night. “The scene now is frozen for the prosecutor.”
The Lille prosecutor’s office told AFP that it had opened an investigation for “endangering the lives of others” and commissioned “a judicial expertise”.
According to the Minister Delegate for Housing, Olivier Klein, who will travel to Lille on Monday, this building was not “stricken with insalubrity”.
A dozen people had been evacuated a few hours before the collapse, explained the socialist mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, present on the spot Saturday morning.
It was one of the residents, who returned home at 3:00 a.m., who gave the alert, after noticing “that the building had moved”.
“We could no longer open the door, we could hear rubble falling,” told France Bleu Nord this young man, Thibault Lemay, who immediately alerted the emergency services.
The municipal police and firefighters decided to evacuate a building, the other seeming empty, considering “that there was a real risk” indicated Ms. Aubry.
“I’m still shaking, because if that night this gentleman hadn’t come home at 3:00 a.m. and hadn’t joined us (…) there would be deaths,” she said, before the announces that a resident was missing. She said she had taken “an order of imminent danger”.
– “Incredible luck” –
“I was still awake when the firefighters started pounding on the doors, but I thought they were revelers and I stayed in bed,” another resident, Benjamin Lopard, 35, told AFP. year.
“When the police arrived, I realized it was serious,” continues the young man, who left around 5:30 a.m. with his papers, his computer and a change of clothes. “I now realize how incredibly lucky we were,” he says: without this evacuation “we would all be in wooden boxes”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin thanked on Twitter “the student who gave the alert last night”.
The surrounding buildings were evacuated on Saturday morning “as a precaution”, and the perimeter had been secured by numerous police officers, while tarpaulins were installed to prevent passers-by from seeing the operations in progress.
After dark, firefighters continued to search under powerful searchlights through the rubble, a dusty mix of bricks and metal joists, remnants of scaffolding on the facade of the building, in which they could make out a staircase and frames in balance.
“We heard a noise for a few seconds, very slowly at first. We thought it was the scaffolding that was falling,” Ludovic Ficher, 30, who works in an adjoining building, told AFP.
“When we realized that it was the whole building that was collapsing, we all ran away,” he added. “I got the fright of my life.”