French authorities say a fast-moving fire swept through a bar during a birthday party in Rouen, killing at least 13 people and injuring six.
NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley tells our Newscast unit that it happened “when birthday candles ignited a combustible ceiling.” Here’s more from Eleanor:
“French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said more than 50 firefighters battled the blaze at the Cuba Libre bar, which was rented for a birthday celebration.
“Witnesses say the building went up extremely quickly. The victims were said to be asphyxiated by a poisonous gas released from the synthetic ceiling material.”
This is France’s “deadliest blaze in a decade,” according to Agence France Presse.
One witness described the scene to France 24: “I said to my friend, come on, let’s take a place on the terrace. And as I started sitting down, all at once, everything exploded. We saw the smoke. We saw the flames. The chairs went flying, and the window. … We were scared.”
On Saturday morning, “through the shattered front windows of the bar in Rouen melted stools and scorched liquor bottles were visible, as tearful mourners hugged each other and brought flowers to the scene of the tragedy,” according to AFP.
As Eleanor reports, French authorities say there is “no reason to expect foul play,” but this is happening as France is tense about recent attacks by extremists. Rouen, which is in the Normandy region of France, is just a few miles away from a village where two teens killed a Catholic priest last month.
According to the BBC, polystyrene and other insulation materials “have been blamed for previous deadly blazes, including a nightclub fire in Bucharest last year which killed 27, and a fire in a club in Brazil in 2013 which killed 241.”