France is in shock after 13 people died and six more were injured when fire ripped through a bar in the northern city of Rouen, turning birthday celebrations to tragedy.
A group of 16-25 year-olds was celebrating in the basement of the Cuba Libre bar at a private party on Friday night.
The person bringing the birthday cake downstairs tripped, sending lit candles onto the walls and ceiling.
A woman outside the bar who witnessed the tragedy said:
“I told my friend, let’s get a spot on the terrace. I had started to sit down when …pff…suddenly everything went up. We saw the smoke and the flames, the chairs flew up, the window. We were afraid so we moved away.”
The fire took hold rapidly and soundproofing material inside the basement released toxic gas.
An investigation is underway into the blaze, France’s deadliest in a decade.
One of those hurt is said to have 90 percent burns.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was among political leaders taking to Twitter to express their grief.
“Deep sadness faced with the tragedy which cut short 13 young lives. Compassion and support to the families affected,” he said.
It is another tragedy for Rouen, which last week buried a priest killed in his own church in an Islamist terror attack.