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New demolitions halt search in deadly French building collapse

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MARSEILLE: Pressure grew on Marseille’s mayor and other officials Thursday, accused of ignoring warnings about unsafe housing as a seventh body was pulled from rubble after a deadly building collapse in the southern French port city.
The bodies of five men and two women have so far been recovered from the mound of rubble where two buildings suddenly crumbled on Monday. Authorities believe one person might still be trapped. Rescue workers are being forced to work slowly because the collapse destabilized other buildings along the Rue d’Aubagne. The search resumed Thursday afternoon after it was halted Wednesday so two other buildings could be pulled down.
Chances of finding any survivors “are thin, very thin, but really,” said Charles-Henri Garie, who commands the water brigades of the port city’s fire department. Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin defended his administration’s efforts to deal with thousands of dilapidated lodgings in the city while calling for parliament to make it easier to compel private owners to undertake necessary maintenance or make improvements.
Citing “terribly long, complex and costly procedures” for renovating or demolishing squalid buildings, Gaudin said, “some people are taking advantage of this in opposition to society’s interests.” But he told a news conference he would not heed calls to resign, saying 35 million euros ($40 million) had been spent demolishing or renovating social housing blocks since 2005. “Do you think a ship captain quits during a storm?” he asked. Furious residents along the Rue d’Aubagne, dozens of whom have been evacuated from their homes, have accused city authorities of neglecting the safety risks at the derelict buildings despite years of complaints.
“Gaudin, Fructus, murderers!” a crowd of around 100 protestors yelled at the site on Wednesday evening, referring to the mayor’s deputy in charge of housing, Arlette Fructus. The mayor’s deputy for risk prevention, Julien Ruas, said Thursday that 51 complaints were made on Wednesday alone, leading to 37 checks on buildings and four evacuations. A silent march has been called for Saturday in Noailles, the working-class neighborhood where the incident occurred.
It remains unclear what caused the two houses built in the late 18th century to collapse, though city officials point to heavy rains the night before. Marseille prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said a resident in one of the apartments had called firefighters the night before the disaster to warn that a crack in the wall had widened, only to call back later to say they were not required after all. The other building had been condemned and boarded up, but residents told Media the building was often squatted in by homeless people or sellers of black-market cigarettes.
City officials said building experts inspected the occupied building on October 18 and shoring up work was carried out before residents were allowed back in. A 2015 government report said about 100,000 Marseille residents were living in housing that was dangerous. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said this week that 6,000 properties have been identified as “at risk” in the city, representing some 44,000 lodgings, mainly in lower-class neighborhoods. “It’s unthinkable that such things happen in our time,” said Christian Gouverneur, who owns a flat across the road from the collapsed buildings.

 

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Economy

Danish delegation visits Faisalabad

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FAISALABAD: Under the development initiative of Punjab government, the waste water treatment plant project costing Rs.15 billion would be completed with the cooperation and financial assistance of Denmark to utilize 150 MGD waste water of Maddoana drain for irrigation purposes.
In this connection, a delegation of Denmark visited Faisalabad and held a meeting with Deputy Commissioner (DC) Sardar Saifullah Dogar.
A delegation headed by Deputy Head of Mission Bente Schiller included Director RDC Ulrik Netterstrom, Investment Director Danida Business Finance Rina Stender Sapru. MD WASA Faqir Muhammad Chaudhry and other officers were also present.
Deputy Commissioner welcomed the Danish delegation and said the Punjab government was taking a keen interest in the provision of potable water to the people. In this connection, the government had set its priorities besides allocating sufficient funds, he said and added that cooperation of Denmark was appreciable which would help in early completion of project.
He said that this project would further cement the bilateral relations between the two counties.
Bente Schiller said that Denmark government through Danida Business Finance was conducting a feasibility study prior to financing a large scale waste water treatment plant with the newest Danish technology.
She hoped that project would enhance the living conditions for the population in and around Faisalabad as pollution through waste water was a major health concern.

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Economy

Strike hits German airports

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Frankfurt am Main: Hundreds of flights were cancelled at eight German airports today, including at the nation’s busiest travel hub Frankfurt, as security staff walked off the job in a deepening row over pay.
Germany’s powerful Verdi union said the strike would last from 02:00 am until 8:00 pm (0100-1900 GMT) at Frankfurt airport, with walkouts in Munich, Hanover, Bremen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden and Erfurt following roughly the same schedule.
At least 220,000 travellers would be hit by cancellations and delays, the ADV airport association said, in a calculation that includes knock-on effects at other airports.
Frankfurt airport operator Fraport, which axed 617 out of around 1,200 scheduled flights, urged passengers not to come to Europe’s fourth-busiest airport during the strike.

 

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Business

VW, Ford confirm alliance

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DETROIT: Volkswagen and Ford announced today that the automakers had agreed to an alliance to jointly develop commercial vans and pickups starting in 2022 in a bid to reduce costs.
The announcement came after more than six months of talks between the car giants which has also included discussions around autonomous and electrification technologies. The companies said they had agreed to “investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electric vehicles and have started to explore those opportunities.”
The deal reached between the American and German automakers to develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups as early as 2022 does not involve cross-ownership, according to a joint statement.

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