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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Children die in Paris hostel fire
A survivor and her child after a fire in Paris
Rescuers helped many of the building's residents to escape
Fourteen children and three adults have died in a fire that swept through a building in Paris housing African immigrants, French police say.

The fire broke out in the capital's 13th district shortly after midnight. Thirty people were injured.

Some 200 firefighters took two hours to control the blaze and help many of the building's 130 residents to safety.

In April, 24 people died in a fire at a Paris hotel also housing immigrants, prompting calls for better housing.

Friday's fire broke out in a stairwell in the dilapidated, seven-storey building at around 0017 (2217 GMT Thursday).

Some 210 firemen from 22 stations around the city were called to the scene, managing to bring the blaze under control after about two hours.

Investigation under way

The building was reportedly used by charitable organisations to house immigrants.

Local residents said many of those living in the apartment block were from Senegal and Mali.

It's an abominable spectacle
Nicolas Sarkozy
French Interior Minister

"I heard children cry, families scream," Oumar Cisse told journalists after he was evacuated from the building. "Some children were yelling for their mothers and fathers.

"Lots of people wanted to jump out of the windows."

He said the building was "very dirty", and infested with rats and mice.

"We were very badly housed, we had been waiting for new homes since 1991," he said.

The injured were being treated in hospitals across the French capital.

About 100 of the building's 130 residents were children, police said.

According to the French Red Cross, one family lost four of its six children in the blaze.

The BBC 's Jacky Rowland in Paris says questions are being asked about why so many immigrant families are packed into shabby and potentially dangerous buildings in Paris.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy arrived at the scene of the fire in the early hours.

"We just saw the bodies of seven children who were asphyxiated. It's an abominable spectacle," he said.

He said he wanted a "census" of all the buildings that could be at risk of fire.

The cause of the blaze is unknown but a criminal investigation is under way.

It is the worst fire since an inferno at the one-star Paris Opera hotel in April killed 24 people, at least 10 of them children, and injured more than 50.

In that disaster, too, many of the hotel guests were African immigrants waiting to be re-housed.

Police said at the time that a girlfriend of a night watchman admitted she may have started that blaze by accident after throwing a pile of clothes on top of candles.

Have you been affected by the fire? Do you, or someone you know, live in similar accommodation?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Lodging is a real problem, here, in Paris. And people suffer both from the greed of the owners and the age of the buildings. This is the Paris not shown to tourists, the Paris of poor (or at least not rich) people that live in 4m squared with children. Most of those buildings were renovated one or two times since WW2, at most. If nothing is done, this is bound to happen again! I hope that something will be done, but referencing such buildings is only half of the quarter of the beginning of what should be done.
Loris, Paris, France

What makes me angry is how few places have any form of smoke or fire alarm. The last apartment block I lived in did have one but it didn't work - as we discovered when there was a fire and we all had to evacuate. The building I live in now has no alarm of any sort as far as I am aware and we have wooden stairs (as do many Parisian buildings). Smoke alarms are difficult to find in France and expensive to buy when you do. I ended up bringing one back from the UK that cost me 4 in the supermarket. Surely these very simple and (normally) inexpensive devices could save so many lives if the French fire brigade started a campaign like the ones in the UK?
Gemma, Paris, France

My husband was recently working in Paris and was housed in an 8 storey block. There were no smoke alarms evident anywhere! In private rented accommodation here it is law to have smoke alarms why is the not the case in Paris?
Patricia Evans, Southampton, England

One of my daughter's classmates died at the age of 6, after a fire started in his family's apartment. His mother and older sister also died in that blaze. Similar to what happened in Paris, the apartment had no adequate fire escape and was considered an illegal apartment for that reason. Speaking to the father only days after that tragedy, just before the funerals, was one of the most heart-breaking experiences I had. It also made me angry because what happened to them (and now to the people in Paris) could have been prevented but somebody who had housing to offer, was too greedy to give a damn about the occupant's safety
Lucille, Queens, NY

During an art trip to Paris in the early 1990s, we stayed in such a hotel on the Paris ring road. Several African families were in each room, one broken elevator serviced the whole hotel and night-time security was non-existent. I truly hope this wasn't the same pathetic hole that claimed so many innocent young lives.
Christian Cawley, Redcar, England

In pictures: Paris blaze
26 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Country profile: France
05 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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