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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Officials comb burnt Paris hotel
Firefighters scaling the walls
Guests were trapped on upper floors
Firefighters and police have been searching the ruins of a Paris hotel after a devastating fire killed at least 21 people, 10 of them children.

They are trying to find the cause of the fire that gutted the modest Paris-Opera hotel early on Friday. Officials believe it was an accident.

More than 50 people were injured, 11 seriously. Some of the victims died when they jumped from the windows.

Many of the hotel guests were African immigrants waiting to be re-housed.

Most of the victims were trapped on the upper floors.

Forensic experts are trying to verify reports that the fire may have started when a guest used a microwave oven on the first floor.

At this stage, we have no indication that it was anything but an accident
Dominique de Villepin
French Interior Minister

The flames quickly spread through the six storey-building via the stairwell.

The Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation for manslaughter.

Single exit

"At this stage, we have no indication that it was anything but an accident," Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said at the scene.

The death toll rose to 21 on Friday night when rescue workers found the body of a woman in the rubble.

The Paris-Opera is one of many privately-owned hotels used by the social services as temporary housing for families who need urgent help, a spokesman for the Paris city council told the BBC News website.

Such hotels are also used by budget travellers.

Those injured in the fire included people from France, the US, Portugal, Senegal, Tunisia, Ukraine and Ivory Coast, police said.

Fire services said the hotel had a single entrance - adding that a separate fire exit was not mandatory for older buildings.




SEE ALSO:
Eyewitness: Paris hotel blaze
15 Apr 05 |  Europe
In pictures: Paris hotel fire
15 Apr 05 |  In Pictures


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