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'A terrible tragedy': 11 dead after fire in holiday care home for people with disabilities

Firefighters and sniffer dogs arrive at the site of a fire which erupted at a home for disabled people in Wintzenheim near Colmar, eastern France.
Firefighters and sniffer dogs arrive at the site of a fire which erupted at a home for disabled people in Wintzenheim near Colmar, eastern France. Copyright SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
Copyright SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
By Euronews with AP
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France's Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne visited the scene of the holiday home for people with disabilities in eastern France where 11 people died after a fire broke out early Wednesday.

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A devastating fire that raged through a vacation home for adults with disabilities in eastern France on Wednesday left 11 people dead, an official said.

Nathalie Kielwasser, the deputy prosecutor for Colmar, said 11 people who were sleeping on the upper floor and in a mezzanine area of the private accommodation in the town of Wintzenheim were trapped by the fire, while five others managed to escape.

Twelve people who were staying on the ground floor were able to evacuate, she said.

The adults, who had 'slight intellectual disabilities,' were on a vacation sponsored by two specialised associations, she said.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances of the fire and whether the building met all the required safety standards, she said.

Authorities said one of the survivors was sent to a hospital with serious injuries.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrived at the scene on Wednesday afternoon. She said she wanted to show the government's support for the families of the victims and for the firefighters and rescuers on site. 

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin posted on social media that “early this morning, a fire broke out in a facility for disabled people" in the small town of Wintzenheim, close to the border with Germany.

"Despite the rapid and courageous intervention of the fire department ... several casualties are reported,” he said.

The fire department deployed 76 firefighters, four fire engines, and four ambulances to contain the blaze and treat the victims. Forty police officers were also mobilised.

Lt. Col. Philippe Hauwiller, who was leading the rescue work of firefighters, said the fire likely started on the home's upper floor.

The ground floor was made of stone and the upper part of the building was built entirely of wood in the traditional style of the region, which might partly explain why the fire spread so quickly.

Many of the visitors came from the city of Nancy in eastern France, a statement from the Haut-Rhin prefecture said.

The fire was quickly brought under control, the statement said.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter: "In the face of this tragedy, my thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their families. Thank you to our security forces and emergency services.”

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