10 killed in arson attack on Paris apartment

6 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

PARIS: At least 10 people died and 30 were injured in an overnight blaze at an apartment block in Paris that police suspect was deliberately started by a female resident, officials and firefighters said Tuesday, reports AFP.

The fire on the upper floors of the building in rue Erlanger in the upmarket 16th district of southwest Paris is the most deadly in the capital since 2005.

Dramatic video footage from the scene showed flames leaping out of top floor windows and firemen climbing narrow ladders to rescue terrified residents, some dressed only in pyjamas, from the top of the eight-storey block.

Described by one rescue worker as a “scene of incredible violence”, the blaze left at least 10 people dead and around 30 others injured—six of them firefighters, the fire service said.

“One person who lives in the building has been arrested. She’s a 40-year-old woman who has prior psychological problems,” Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said at the scene, where the smell of smoke still hung in the air several hours after the blaze was extinguished.

An investigation has been opened into the criminal charge of causing death by arson amid fears that the toll could climb further as investigators search the burned-out top floors.

Tributes were paid to rescue workers who saved around 50 people on Monday night, some of whom had climbed on to the roofs of adjacent buildings to escape the inferno. The fire started at about 1:00 am (0000 GMT) and was only brought under control more than five hours later by around 200 firefighters backed by 100 fire engines.

“At windows, people were yelling ‘Help, help!’ everyone was panicking,” witness Humberto Ribas, who works in a building opposite, told AFP.

Another local, who gave his name as Nicolas, said he initially thought a fight had broken out when he heard a woman screaming.

“She was screaming, screaming and we went outside and the building was already on fire,” he said.

But rescue efforts were initially hampered by the fact that the blaze was ripping through apartments inside an inner courtyard, with no vehicle access. “The firemen had just arrived but what was amazing was that they were completely impotent,” Nicolas told AFP.