Police in Paris say they have remanded in custody three young girls as they investigate last night’s deadly fire in a block of flats that killed 15 people.
Eyewitnesses say young people were misbehaving in the block’s entrance hall, stuffing burning paper into letterboxes before the fire services arrived. They quickly put out the blaze, but not before it had produced clouds of smoke which poured up into the building through the well-ventilated stairwell and liftshaft, all the way to the top 18th storey. “When I went to work on Saturday morning there were already scorch marks in the lift”. “Plenty of kids play with fire around here…they’ve already tried”, said one couple. The fire was made worse when residents came out of their flats to investigate and left their doors open, creating a draft that fed the flames below and pumped the smoke higher. Apart from the dead 12 other people were seriously injured, and rescuers spoke of the nightmarish scenes as they tried to get up to 800 people out of the building safely in total darkness, and with passageways blocked with the dead and unconscious. “There was a lot of smoke and we couldn’t get out, the power was cut, and we were starting to panic…luckily the firefighters got here”, said another resident. In all 110 city council homes are now abandoned while temporary lodging has to be found for the tenants. Police are treating the fire as criminal in origin, and can hold their three suspects for 48 hours before charging, or releasing them.