Lyon, France: 10 people, including 5 children, died in a fire in a residential building

Lyon, France: 10 people, including 5 children, died in a fire in a residential building
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At least 10 people, including five children, were killed in a massive fire that broke out in an eight-story apartment building on the outskirts of the French city of Lyon early Friday morning.

The fire broke out on the first floor of the structure in Vaulx-en-Velin, a spokesman for the National Federation of Fire Fighters, Major Geoffrey Cassou, told French TV channel LCI on Friday. According to CNN affiliate BFMTV, the inferno then engulfed the top three floors of the building.

Frightened families were roused from their beds by what one resident described as “apocalyptic” scenes as smoke and flames engulfed the remains of their homes. In an interview with the French radio station RTL, the resident said that he and his wife put their children under a wet sheet so that they could survive.

According to BFMTV, around 2:25 a.m., neighbors were awakened by the chaos, some by the screams of parents and children screaming for help from the balconies of their apartments. Bystanders jumped in to help, using ladders they found.

Emergency services were alerted at 3:12 a.m. and arrived 13 minutes later. About 170 firefighters and 65 fire trucks were sent to the scene, the regional authorities said. Inside, Jasu said, they found the structure’s internal escape routes blocked by smoke, forcing them to reach the ladders of many families.

The woman interviewed by RTL, whose exits appeared to be blocked, said her family had locked the beds together to escape through the fifth-floor window into the freezing winter darkness. However, the risk was too great. They saw the neighbors die while trying to escape this way.

While they were sitting and waiting for an ambulance, the woman’s 4-year-old child lost consciousness. Hope began to fade

“Perhaps, I think, we saw death before us,” he said.

A police officer is standing near the fire

About 170 firefighters were involved in the incident on Friday morning.

The woman’s two children were eventually rescued by firefighters and lowered from the window with the help of a mechanical bucket. She and her husband were evacuated by stairs through thick, blinding black smoke.

“You couldn’t breathe. All the fire extinguishers were red, we almost drowned,” he said.

“It was terrifying, apocalyptic.”

Four people were in critical condition when the fire was extinguished at 6 a.m. and ten others, including two firefighters, suffered minor injuries in the blaze in the town of Volx-en-Veline, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes regional authorities said in a statement.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that the age of the dead children varies from 3 to 15.

“Obviously, it’s a shock, the death toll is extremely serious,” Darmanin told reporters. He and French Housing Minister Olivier Klein visited the scene and met with first responders later in the day.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called the incident “tragic” and offered solidarity and support to the victims and their relatives.

It is not yet known how the fire started. Local prosecutors said in a statement that an investigation has begun to determine what exactly caused the fire. Nothing has been ruled out, including “criminal intent,” the statement said.

Technical teams of the judicial police, forensic medicine and firefighting experts are at the scene. The statement says that victim support groups have also been mobilized.

Regional authorities said Pascal Mailhos, prefect of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, Helène Geoffrey, mayor of Vaulx-en-Valin, and public prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet went to the scene.

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