August 25, 2005

Seventeen killed in Paris apartment block blaze

By Kerstin Gehmlich

PARIS (Reuters) - A fire tore through a six-storey Paris
apartment block on Friday, killing 17 people -- some of them
children -- and injuring around 30, French officials said.

They said the blaze broke out in the stairwell of the
traditional Parisian apartment building just after midnight
when most residents would have been sleeping. It was brought
under control two hours later but the cause was not immediately

"I heard children cry, families scream," Oumar Cisse told
journalists after he was evacuated from the building, which
French radio reported housed immigrants from African countries
such as Mali and Senegal.

"Some children were yelling for their mothers and fathers,"
said Cisse.

A little boy in pyjamas, who seemed to be of African
origin, clutched a toy animal as he was led away from the
building in southern Paris by emergency officials. A number of
women and men, some carrying children in their arms, were also

"Some children are among the dead," said a fire brigade
spokesman at the scene, adding he did not know the exact

Smoke could still be seen coming out of windows of the
apartment block at around 4:30 a.m. (0230 GMT).

Police cordoned off the area, close to the river Seine and
the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden. More than 200
firefighters and dozens of ambulance workers and police were at
the scene.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy visited the site
in the early hours.

Friday's fire occurred only four months after a blaze at a
six-storey Paris hotel killed 24 people in April, half of them

The blaze at the hotel, which housed many immigrants, was
one of the deadliest fires in the French capital for years.

Some people tried to save themselves by jumping from
windows and others tried to save their children by throwing
them from upper floors when the fire broke out in the middle of
the night.

Police said later they had detained a young woman and that
she had admitted accidentally causing the fire at the hotel,
situated near the Galeries Lafayette luxury department store.

Anti-racism and pro-immigration groups have said the April
tragedy highlighted the precarious living conditions of many
immigrants in France.

Hundreds of immigrants in Paris live in run-down hotels or
shabby buildings because of pressures on housing.