Rescue workers retrieved a body early Sunday in the northern French city of Lille, after an hours-long search through the rubble of two collapsed buildings.
Two small adjoining houses collapsed on a shopping street in the city center around 9:15 a.m. local time (0815 GMT) on Saturday.
At first, the collapses appeared to have caused no injuries. The homes were evacuated overnight as a precaution after a resident warned that one of the walls was “warping,” police said.
Authorities soon realized a doctor was missing after calls to his phone went unanswered. He had been allowed to borrow an apartment in the building for the weekend.
A body was located shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, and Lt. Col. Stephane Beauventre, who is leading the rescue effort, said they believed the victim was the doctor.
“The body went to the forensic institute. It will be clearly identified later,” Beauventre said.
Officials visited nearby houses on Saturday to check for cracks or gas leaks after the collapse.
A resident of one of the buildings first noticed something was wrong early Saturday, when he came home to find “the building had moved.”
“We couldn’t open the door, we heard rubble falling,” Thibault Lemay told French radio, adding that he immediately alerted emergency services.
Municipal police and firefighters decided to evacuate the buildings, because “there was a real risk,” said Lille mayor Martine Aubry.
Another resident, Benjamin Lopard, 35, told AFP: “I was not yet asleep when the firefighters started banging on the doors, but I thought they were party people and I stayed in bed.”
“When the police came, I realized it was serious,” he said, adding that he left around 5:30 a.m. with his papers, computer and a change of clothes.
Both three-story buildings had collapsed by 9:15 a.m.
“I realize now how incredibly lucky we were,” Lopard said. Without the evacuation, he said, “we would all be in wooden boxes”.