A building in a northeastern Paris suburb collapsed after an explosion on Sunday morning, killing two children and two women, and teams were still searching the rubble for four other people late Sunday.
About 150 emergency workers responded to the explosion in Rosny-sous-Bois, some using sniffer dogs, to try to find four adults still unaccounted for, said the prefect of Saint-Seine-Denis, Philippe Galli.
“The later it gets, the more remote the possibility of finding survivors,” said Galli.
Gaetan de Raucourt, head of the Paris firefighting department, said there was still hope that occupants had found "pockets of air" amid the wood and dusty concrete rubble.
An 8-year-old child was the first victim to be found dead after the explosion at around 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), followed by the discovery of an unconscious 80-year-old woman in the debris. She died while being taken out, said fire department spokesman Gabriel Plus.
Later in the afternoon, a woman in her 40s and her child were found dead, Galli said.
Firefighters said 11 people were injured, four of them seriously.
Gas leak suspected in blast
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking to reporters at the scene, said the explosion appeared to have been caused by a gas leak.
City officials set up a makeshift shelter in a nearby school with an on-site medical team for families affected by the blast.
One side of the four-story building in the suburb of Rosny-Sous-Bois was ripped off completely, exposing the interiors of apartments. Local authorities said the structure appeared to have conformed to building codes.
A rescue mission could last up to 48 hours, authorities said.
Local residents who rushed to help in the moments after the blast described a bloody scene.
“We tried to take people out,” said Arafet Brahim, who said he and his friends pulled out some children who appeared to be in good shape.
“But we also took bodies out,” Brahim said. “Frankly, it was horrible, I don't know how to describe that moment."
Pauline, a neighbor who lives about 100 meters (yards) from the collapsed building said, "Our house moved, we were trembling from fear. The explosion was so loud that "our ears were ringing."
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.