updated 12/27/2004 1:03:08 PM ET 2004-12-27T18:03:08

A gas explosion tore through a five-story apartment building in eastern France, killing 17 people and injuring 15, authorities said Monday.

Rescue workers, who initially found two bodies in the wreckage of Sunday afternoon’s blast, discovered 15 more bodies early Monday.

Most of the deaths were caused by the collapse of three floors above where the explosion took place, officials said. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 60, they said.

Dozens of rescue workers equipped with body-detecting dogs and mechanical diggers pored over the wreckage in a hunt for several people who remained missing, said Capt. Bertrand Weckel, a spokesman for regional emergency services. Efforts to locate the missing were complicated by the need to remove collapsed concrete beams.

“Police will, of course, continue the investigation, but for us, this was clearly caused by a gas leak,” Weckel said.

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