The impressive red truck that served as a command post for rescue workers for five days drawing the attention of cameras was gone. The articulated crane that delicately lifted the rubble in the hope of saving potential survivors had given way to clearing equipment. On the corners of the streets, tribute banners bore the names of the eight victims from 17 Rue de Tivoli and messages of thanks to the firemen. Ten days after the explosion and collapse of two buildings, number 17 followed by 15, on the night of Saturday, April 8, the Camas quarter in the center of Marseille displayed the still raw scars of the drama.
“This is a pleasant neighborhood to live in, with a mixed population of both traditional Marseillais from working-class backgrounds and newcomers who appreciate the environment. It will take time for this community to find its way back to normality. The trauma is not about to disappear,” said Didier Jau, mayor of the district and member of the Printemps Marseillais, the left-wing, green and citizen coalition that runs the city. A year earlier, the elected official himself lived in this block of streets with well-kept buildings, between the top of the Canebière, Place Jean-Jaurès, which everybody calls “La Plaine” (the Plain), and Boulevard Eugène-Pierre. A historic stronghold of the Right in full social mutation, which, in 2020, triumphantly elected the Green candidate Michèle Rubirola.
In the hours following the tragedy, 302 people, including 55 minors, were evacuated between the streets Abbé-de-l’Epée, Tivoli and Jaubert. Ten days later, 42 buildings and a single-family home remained inside the security perimeter. This zone was put under police surveillance, designed to facilitate the work of the emergency services, to allow the evaluation of building structures potentially altered by the explosion, and to avoid what an elected official called “voyeurism” at the scene of the tragedy.
On April 14, following the city council meeting during which a long tribute was paid to the victims, the mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, spoke of his determination to push the State to make available a compensation fund for the victims as soon as possible. But he also warned that the gradual return of evacuees should wait for the safety of buildings and utilities to be confirmed. “For some buildings close to the explosion, that will take time,” he said.
“When the firemen and journalists left, we thought it was over and that we were going home… We found it hard to understand that it was going to take longer,” said Grégoire Bernardi, who was evacuated on April 9. Like two -thirds of those evacuated, this photographer found temporary accommodation with friends. On April 18, only 90 people, including 12 minors, were provided with accommodation by the municipality in hotels or rented apartments. A drop in the ocean compared to the tidal wave of 3,500 evacuees caused by the disaster of the building collapse in Rue d’Aubagne and its aftermath, in November 2018.
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