Monday 25 September 2017

Man held after eight killed in Paris apartment block blaze

Rescue workers ladders are seen at the damaged building. Photo: AP
Rescue workers ladders are seen at the damaged building. Photo: AP

Greg Keller in Paris

Police have detained a man suspected of starting a fire that killed eight people, including two children, at the foot of Paris's famed Montmartre hill.

Some of the people died leaping out of windows to flee what appeared to be the deadliest blaze in the French capital in a decade.

The dead included two children, and four survivors were hospitalised, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters at the scene.

A police source said the suspect, who was in his 30s and known to police, was found with "a candle and lighter".

Firefighters extinguished a small paper fire around midnight in the building, then were called back two hours later for a much bigger blaze, fire department spokesman Gabriel Plus said.

It's unclear what caused both fires, and whether there was any link.

When the firefighters returned, Mr Plus said "we were immediately confronted with a disaster of an exceptional scale".

People screamed for help from inside the building, and two people who had already jumped from windows were on the ground motionless in front of the building, he said. Several windows had been blown out because of the fire.

Mr Brandet said the fire began in a ground floor stairwell. Mr Plus said it quickly engulfed all five floors of the building and consumed several apartments and the stairwell, forcing people to flee out windows.

More than 100 firefighters were needed to extinguish the blaze.

"I was sleeping and I heard cries of people calling for help," said Florent, who lives in a different entrance of the same building.

"I opened the door to see the damage ... and I went to get a bucket of water in the panic. Then I reflected and thought the flames were too big to stop them by myself," and instead called the fire department, he said.

French President Francois Hollande issued a statement about the fire, promising all necessary efforts "to shed light on the drama".

Irish Independent

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