Residents watch as French housing block dynamited

Vénissieux (France) (AFP) –

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Residents of a vast 1960s housing block in the French city of Lyon watched on as the high-rise building collapsed into a pile of rubble on Friday in a spectacular demolition job.

An ear-splitting detonation marked the start of the operation at 10:30am, with the 15 floors of the building known as "Monmousseau" collapsing in on themselves immediately afterwards.

Located in the Venissieux suburb of Lyon, which suffers from high crime and unemployment, the block of 217 apartments was torn down as part of efforts to renovate the area.

"I cried, my wife and daughter came with me, everyone cried... it's 50 years which have gone in one shot," 80-year-old Jean Bernard said at the scene.

He was among the first to move into the brand-new social housing project in 1967.

Authorities around France have been gradually pulling down the high-rise social housing projects constructed on the outskirts of cities in the 1960s to accommodate low-income French and immigrant families.