CNN in Paris —
Two attached vacation homes that provided accommodation for people with disabilities in an eastern French town were destroyed by a fire on Wednesday morning, resulting in the deaths of eleven people.
The tragedy caused a stir in French society, which typically spends most of August on vacation.
After the fire was contained, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and Minister of Solidarity and Families Aurore Berge traveled to the location in Wintzenheim, a small town near the German border about 315 miles (500 kilometers) east of Paris.
“It’s evident that this is a terrible tragedy,” Borne stated.
According to Philippe Hauwiller, the head of rescue operations in Paris, firefighters were alerted to a fire at 6:33 p.m. and responded to the situation 14 minutes later. The fire had already affected 17 people who had evacuated.
The number of people still inside was 11, and Hauwiller hypothesized that the firefighters were already dead by the time they arrived due to the intense flames.
Nathalie Kielwasser, the deputy prosecutor in the area, stated that the 500 square-meter facility had been providing accommodation to individuals with disabilities and members of a charitable association during the summer holidays.
According to Kielwasser, the structure was made up of two rental houses, one on the ground floor and the other on a higher level. The 16 individuals who stayed in the first floor managed to escape, but only five were able to do so.
“The reason behind their being trapped by the flames is a mystery to us,” she declared.
Authorities stated that the group had visited Nancy, a city located approximately 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Wintzenheim.
The fire was attended by 76 firefighters, four fire trucks, and four ambulances.
According to an official, those present in the building were unable to escape the flames.
At 7 a.m., Nathalie Klotz, residing in Wintzenheim, was awakened by the sirens and people’s screaming. She reported that she saw fire trucks, ambulances, and smoke plumes in the distance as she looked up in her garden to observe the situation. From there, she observed the building exploding with flames from its roof several meters high.
Morgane Buch, a neighbor of the building that caught fire, was awakened on Wednesday to check on her baby. While looking out of her child’s window, she noticed someone standing near her car.
The woman exclaimed to Buch, “ma’am, take your leave, it’s burning!”
The prefecture announced that 76 firefighters, four fire trucks, and four ambulances were dispatched to contain the blaze by 9 a.m.
The fire destroyed the building where they were staying, and only the ground floor was left. Deputy Mayor Daniel Leroy stated that all the visitors were adults who were believed to be between 27 and 50 years old.
The reason behind the fire is unknown. According to Kielwasser, the deputy prosecutor, an investigation will be conducted to determine if the building was adequately secured to accommodate such a large number of people.
President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences to those affected and thanked first responders in a statement.
“This tragedy is my sincere condolences to the victims, injured individuals, and their loved ones. Thank you to our security team and emergency services for your help.”