A three-story building under construction collapsed, causing a neighboring building to fall around 9:15 a.m. in rue Pierre-Mauroy, a very busy street in the city, but before the shops opened.
According to the socialist mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a dozen people had already been evacuated overnight and there is "a priori" no victim.
"A young man came home at 3:00 a.m. and he realized that the wall (of the building) was warped" and the door was open, she said. He then warned the municipal police and the firefighters, who decided to evacuate a building, the other seeming empty, considering "that there was a real risk".
Most of the inhabitants have been rehoused with family or friends, said Ms. Aubry, present on the spot.
"I'm still shaking because if that night this gentleman hadn't come home at 3:00 a.m., and hadn't contacted us, and we hadn't had these reactions, there would have been deaths this (Saturday) morning. obviously,” she said. “We owe him a big candle,” she added, also welcoming the reflex of firefighters and municipal police.
“Obviously no victims are to be deplored,” tweeted Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, also thanking “the student who gave the alert last night”.
- Gas leaks -
The mayor of Lille clarified that she had taken "a decree of imminent danger".
The neighboring buildings were also evacuated on Saturday morning "as a precaution".
Firefighters were deployed in numbers at the end of the morning to check the risks and start clearing the rubble, a dusty mixture of bricks and metal beams, remains of scaffolding on the facade of the building.
"There was no particular alert on this building, it was not a building affected by insalubrity", told AFP the Minister Delegate for Housing, Olivier Klein.
"Fortunately, there are no victims at this stage to deplore. There are still doubts that are being raised, especially on the sidewalk, but it seems that no one was in front at the time of the collapse", said he added.
The firefighters were still in "reconnaissance" in order to find "possible victims", they said, but according to Ms. Aubry, the dogs did not detect anything. Checks are underway by drone.
Firefighters also forced store doors at the foot of neighboring buildings to check for any cracks endangering the buildings or gas leaks following the collapse.
- "Fear of my life" -
The perimeter was secured by many police officers and two ambulances from SAMU and SMUR were also on site, AFP journalists noted.
"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."
"We didn't hear a big boom" but a noise "of metal and concrete", said an evacuated neighbor. "It's very tragic what happened, we wait a little in the dark," she added.
"It was a building with two parts: a part formerly France Loisirs, which was empty, and then a part with the Tape-à-l'oeil sign, which was under construction", explained on BFMTV the deputy LREM of the North Violette Spillebout.
"We are really crossing our fingers" that there are no victims, she said.