Saturday, August 6, 2016

13 dead, 6 injured as fire hits bar in French city


PARIS (AP) — A fast-moving
fire that appeared to be accidental swept through a birthday party in a
basement bar in northwest France, killing at least 13 people and injuring six
others, authorities said Saturday.

More than 80 firefighters battled the early Saturday blaze at
the downtown Cuba Libre bar in the city of Rouen, Mayor Yvon Robert said,
calling the fire "very brief."
The birthday party was "a moment of joy for those involved
that ... ended tragically," Robert said.
Vice prosecutor Laurent Labadie told The Associated Press that
the first testimonies from survivors and the early police investigation
indicated the "fire was completely accidental."
"There was no explosion," Labadie told the AP.
"Candles on a birthday cake started the fire after the person who carried
it tripped on the stairs leading to the basement."
Labadie said it's still
unclear how many people were partying at the Cuba Libre club, adding that most
of the dead were between 18 and 25 years old.
In a statement released by the French presidency, Francois
Hollande expressed his "solidarity" with the victims' families and
vowed that the ongoing judicial investigation will shed light on the "the
causes of this dramatic accident."
Labadie said sound-insulating material on the basement's walls
quickly ignited and party guests had no time to escape from the basement.
At the scene of the fire, residents paid tribute to the victims
by laying flowers. Images on French television from outside the bar showed a
large ground-floor window broken open, burned red bar chairs and a tattered
The fire — the deadliest in France since 2005 — came as the
country is on maximum terror alert after two deadly attacks last month and was
also the second recent tragedy to hit Rouen, a city in Normandy. A priest was
slain by two Islamic State extremists in his church outside Rouen on July 26
and his funeral was held Tuesday in Rouen Cathedral.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve gave an initial count of 13
dead and six injured in the fire, which started after midnight Friday. The
prefecture, which runs the region, said one of the six was in a
life-threatening condition.
Rouen's archbishop Dominique Lebrun, who led the public service
for the slain priest, celebrated a Mass on Saturday for the bar victims and
their families, while Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his "deepest
"Young people, some of them very young, had their lives cut
short," said French junior minister Clotilde Valter. "These are
extremely painful circumstances for everybody."
A bar owner identified as Bruno by French TV BFMTV who was close
to the Cuba Libre when the fire broke out said customers were trapped inside
because the fire moved too fast.
"It happened in three seconds," he said. "Some
customers exited on their hands and knees. Some of them tried to use a fire
extinguisher, but it was too late."
In addition to the slaying of the French priest, an IS extremist
launched a Bastille Day attack on the famed promenade in Nice, killing 85
holiday revelers with a truck before being shot dead by police.
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