11 dead in France after fire erupts at vacation home for adults with disabilities

A French prosecutor says a vacation home where 11 people died in a fire in eastern France “did not have the characteristics needed to host the public."

Aug 10, 2023 - 16:23
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11 dead in France after fire erupts at vacation home for adults with disabilities

Eleven people are confirmed dead in eastern France after a fire erupted at a vacation home for adults with disabilities. 

The fire is the deadliest in France since August 2016, when 14 people died in a blaze inside a basement nightclub in the city of Rouen, according to The Associated Press. 

Nathalie Kielwasser, deputy prosecutor for the city of Colmar, said 11 people who were sleeping on the upper floor and in a mezzanine area of the private accommodation in the Alsacian town of Wintzenheim were trapped by the fire on Wednesday, while five managed to escape. Twelve people who were staying on the ground floor were able to evacuate, she said. 

The adults, who had "slight intellectual disabilities," were on a vacation sponsored by two specialized associations, she added. 

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The source of the fire was not immediately clear, and an investigation is currently ongoing. 

However, Kielwasser was quoted by the AFP as saying that "The lodging had not undergone the safety inspection which is obligatory" and "did not have the characteristics needed to host the public." 

"If you want to drive a car, you need a license. If you want to host people, you have to pass this inspection which then tells you how many people you can host and so forth. We impose a certain number of rules for the sake of safety," she said, according to the AFP. 

"The smoke detectors were up to standard, but they are not the type of smoke detectors that are placed in properties hosting the public," she reportedly added. 

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On X, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote "Faced with this tragedy, my thoughts go out to the victims, to the injured, to their loved ones.

"Thank you to our security forces and our mobilized emergency services," he added. 

Images taken at the scene showed flames tearing through the upper parts of the vacation home. 

French prosecutors say the owner of the property, who lives across the street, alerted authorities about the blaze and heard screams coming from the home. 

Many of the visitors came from the eastern French city of Nancy, The Associated Press reported.

The fire broke out around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the news agency added, noting that it took 76 firefighters and four fire engines to contain the blaze, while four ambulances and 40 police officers were mobilized as well. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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