Nearly 150 people had to be evacuated overnight from Saturday to Sunday from a building housing social housing in Martigues, in Bouches-du-Rhône, after cracks appeared, the city announced. “Following apparent cracks in building K of lessor 13 Habitat endangering the solidity of the building with a risk of collapse, the inhabitants of this building and building M, nearly 150 people, were evacuated last night” , the city said in a statement.
“We heard a crack then a loud boom. I immediately thought of what happened in Morocco, hit the day before by an earthquake in which more than 2,000 people died, a resident of the evacuated building who preferred to remain anonymous told AFP. . It was a resident who heard a crack in the night, with a crack appearing in a stairwell, who alerted the firefighters, according to 13 Habitat.
A municipal order of imminent danger prohibiting access to these two buildings was issued. A security perimeter has been positioned prohibiting the movement of pedestrians and vehicles. A support unit for the residents concerned has been set up. Most of the 150 people evacuated were able to be relocated by family or friends, firefighters explained to AFP. As for families who do not have an accommodation solution, they can be accommodated in a gymnasium.
The building, built in the 1970s, is located in a lively and popular district. On site, however, the situation was somewhat tense, with several residents criticizing the social landlord 13 Habitat, the first public social landlord in Bouches-du-Rhône, for having “left abandoned” the city. “This is a problem that has been going on for a very long time. My mother's balcony collapsed two years ago but she had to stay in her home,” another resident who preferred not to give her name complained to AFP.
Several people also told AFP that their request for relocation, due to the significant damage, had remained a dead letter in recent years. Many remaining balconies are currently reinforced with masonry props to hold the building together, an AFP correspondent noted. According to a well-informed source in the city of Martigues, the municipality had warned 13 Habitat three years ago of the problems of deterioration of the building, asking it that work be carried out as a result. The city had even released a million euros with the idea that the lessor would follow.
An observation contested by the social landlord who certainly concedes that "in this city, the heritage was in poor condition" but considers "that there was no identified risk and that no procedure in progress indicated that the structure was weakened,” Romain Luongo, director of communications for 13 Habitat, explained to AFP. The social landlord manages 33,000 housing units in Bouches-du-Rhône, 22,000 of which must soon be renovated as part of a 4 billion euro plan. The projects, which should begin at the end of 2024, will last until 2040.