French interior minister visits scene of fire that killed 10 people including five children

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP
Phone footage of the fire filmed by a witness
Phone footage of the fire filmed by a witness   -  Copyright  AFP

France's Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, has visited the scene of a fire in an apartment block in Lyon that took the lives of ten people, five of them children.

Officials said a further 19 people were injured. 

It was in the early hours of Friday morning that the blaze ripped through a seven-storey apartment block in the city's northeastern suburb of Vaux-en-Velin. 

The fire is one of the deadliest such tragedies in French residential buildings in recent years.

At the scene, the interior minister visited the scene along with the French government's housing minister and the district mayor.  

Gerald Darmanin told waiting journalists that if it had not been for the firefighters the number of victims could have been higher. 

"I would like, along with the minister who's with me, to thank very warmly the firefighters who intervened within 12 minutes at 3 o'clock in the morning and were able to save 15 people by taking considerable risks for their own lives by climbing the building from the outside since it was not possible to enter from the inside, and saving the lives of babies and children up to the seventh floor. Without the speed of the firefighters and without their heroism there would have been an even more dramatic outcome."

The cause of the fire hasn't yet been established but the interior minister said there would be an investigation.

One hundred and seventy firefighters were able to eventually bring the blaze under control and finally put it out with just two of them lightly injured.

The interior minister said the fire happened on one of the coldest nights of the year and the rescue operation took place under what he called difficult conditions.

The area remained cordoned off on Friday.