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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Eyewitness: Paris hotel blaze
A firefighter climbs towards an upper window of the burning hotel
Faced with a fierce fire, many risked a dangerous leap into the street
Neighbours, passers-by and rescue workers have described the devastation at the scene of a fierce fire at a central Paris hotel.

Many people have died in the blaze, among them African immigrants waiting for housing.

Several children are also said to be among the dead.

"With our own equipment, we started fighting the fire from the ground floor," said Alfred Millot, head of the private fire service based at the vast Galeries Lafayette department store, close to the Paris-Opera hotel.

"I came running and people were already jumping through the windows," he told the Agence France Press news agency.

"I saw bodies, windows in flames, people crying out for help."

The hotel is close to some of Paris' most famous landmarks, but behind the department store are run-down streets that are home to a raft of small hotels.

They jumped. People on the first floor threw their children out the windows.
Alfred Millot
Galeries Lafayette store

Laure, a 41-year-old prostitute working in a nearby hotel, told how she heard "screams and cries for help" from guests trapped in their beds when the fire broke out.

Many were forced to jump from their windows to escape the fire. They landed in the street with a thud, Laure told AFP.

Mr Millot said: "It's hard in that kind of situation to tell people to calm down. They jumped. People on the first floor threw their children out the windows."

Chakib San, who lives in a building adjacent to the hotel, said the cries of those trapped inside woke him up.

Amid the cries of "Fire! Fire!" Mr San said he saw three people jump from the hotel.

Among them were a woman and child, both of whom lay motionless after hitting the ground.

"They were on the ground. They weren't moving," he told the Associated Press.

Horrified, Mr San rushed outside to help. A woman from a nearby hotel fetched a ladder and together the pair tried to rescue those inside.

"We got out a little girl," Mr San said. "The fire services arrived just afterwards."


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Fatal blaze guts Parisian hotel
15 Apr 05 |  Europe

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