Eight dead in Paris apartment block fire

2nd September 2015, Comments 0 comments

French police arrested a man Wednesday after eight people, including two children, were killed in a fire in a Paris apartment building that investigators believe may have been started deliberately.

Terrified residents jumped out of windows as flames engulfed the block in an immigrant area of the 18th district of the French capital, at the foot of the Montmartre hill and its tourist attractions.

The fire -- the deadliest in Paris since 2005 -- quickly became a criminal investigation after it emerged firefighters had been called out twice to the same building, two hours apart.

Police arrested a man in his 30s "who might have been at the scene" of the fire, a source at the Paris prosecutor's office said, although he stressed the investigation was at an early stage.

The arrest was made after investigators studied CCTV footage, the source added.

Investigators said a man was seen running away from the building after the blaze.

Tissem Ferjani, a pastry chef who lives on the same road, said she had seen "lifeless bodies on the ground" after residents had jumped in a desperate effort to escape the raging flames.

"I was woken up around 4:00 am by people screaming for help. They had no choice -- either they stayed where they were and died or they got out through the window and they fell.

"Everyone in the district came out to try to help them."

- Two died after jumping -

Firefighters said two of the eight victims had died after jumping from the building. Two of the dead were children.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told Europe 1 radio that the authorities were "focusing on the possibility of criminal intent".

"Nothing has been proven yet so we have to be cautious, but for the moment that is the line of investigation that is being looked at very closely," he said.

Firefighters were first called to the scene at 2:20 am (0020 GMT) and quickly put out the blaze, but they were called back again two hours later to extinguish a second, much larger fire.

The blaze started on the ground floor of the five-storey building before spreading up the stairwell.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said the apartment block was a privately-owned building, not a block of flats for low-income families.

It had been recently renovated and was equipped with an entry code system.

The mayor said 15 buildings in the district had been affected by the inferno.

In a statement, President Francois Hollande said: "Everything is being done to shed light on the cause of this tragedy."

The fire was the worst of its kind in Paris since 2005, when a series of blazes in the capital killed more than 50 people, including 24 in a hostel that mainly housed African families.


© 2015 AFP

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