Marseille is facing its biggest crisis in decades as many of its historic buildings-turned-slums are collapsing, with often tragic results

In her flat in a decrepit 18th-century building in the centre of Marseille, Samira ran her hand over a crack in her kitchen wall. “I worry my building is slowly caving in,” she said. “I’m scared we’ll end up buried alive.”

The stone staircase up to other damp apartments was sloping and wonky and residents felt that it moved as they used it. A crack in one wall was so deep, daylight seeped through. A burly teenager on an upper floor had been regularly told by his father not to step on parts of the increasingly uneven kitchen floor, which he feared was subsiding. Samira’s bathroom ceiling was sodden with mould and damp. After dark, rats made so much noise in her kitchen that it sounded as if she was being burgled.

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Read More Marseille falls apart: why is France’s second city crumbling?

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