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Paris apartment fire kills seven
Updated: 2005-08-30 19:55

Flames tore through a rundown Paris apartment building where African immigrants lived, killing seven people, including three children, firefighters said Tuesday. It was the second deadly fire in a week at buildings housing immigrants in France's capital, and the third since April.

In this photo released by the Paris Firefighters Brigade, firefighters extinguish a fire in a Paris building early Tuesday Aug. 30, 2005 The fire tore through a rundown Paris apartment building where African immigrants lived, killing seven people including a six-year-old child, firefighters said Tuesday. The latest fire comes just days after a deadly blaze killed 17 Africans in the French capital. [AP]

Just days ago, a deadly blaze killed 17 Africans in Paris. Four months earlier, 24 people died in a similar fire at a budget hotel that housed African immigrants, focusing new attention on the plight of Paris' poor and their overcrowded lodgings.

Two other people were seriously injured in the latest fire, which started late Monday and ripped through a six-story building in the 3rd arrondissment of central Paris where Ivorian immigrants lived, firefighters said.

Eleven people, including five firefighters, were slightly injured. Two men were injured jumping out of windows to escape the flames, officials said.

French President Jacques Chirac urged investigators to work diligently. He also said the government would take "strong initiatives" soon to help families in inadequate housing.

"I want to stress how much this situation is unworthy of the natural requirements that we owe to people here in France, whatever their origin or nationality," he said on the sidelines of a meeting on French industry.

About 130 firefighters battled the blaze, which was believed to have started on the second floor of the building.

A dozen families from the Ivory Coast lived in the building, where the conditions were known by authorities to be "absolutely inadmissible and dangerous," said Pierre Aidenbaum, the district mayor.

Aidenbaum said the city intervened to have the rundown building abandoned by its owner bought six months ago. He added that he started the process of searching for a place to relocate the families a month ago.

Deputy Paris Mayor Yves Contassot said a larger number of families about 25 lived in the building, which was taken over by squatters. About half the families were illegal immigrants, he said.

A woman who lived in a nearby building, Elisabeth Sevre, said the tenants were living in "frightening conditions" and that she often saw them taking water from a spigot on the street.

Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said his team had counted 1,000 unfit buildings in Paris when he became mayor in 2001.

"This situation has been around for decades," he said. "What we want is to attack this problem. We have been doing it for four and a half years."

On Friday, 14 children and three adults were killed in a blaze in southeastern Paris at a dilapidated apartment building that housed African immigrants. The fire drew angry calls for action on behalf of the needy.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy pointed to overcrowding as a reason for the high death toll of that blaze and ordered an inventory of dangerous and cramped buildings.

Officials have ruled out an electrical short circuit in that fire, and French police raised the possibility Monday that the fire was caused by people, whether by accident or on purpose.

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