Bar fire kills 13 at birthday party

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A FIRE sparked by birthday cake can­dles tore through a bar in north­ern France, killing at least 13 peo­ple in the na­tion’s dead­li­est blaze in more than a decade, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Through the shat­tered front win­dows of the Au Cuba Li­bre bar in Rouen melted stools and scorched liquor bot­tles were vis­i­ble, as tear­ful mourn­ers hugged each other and brought flow­ers to the scene.

The dead were aged be­tween 16 and 25. One of the six in­jured was in life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion in the Rouen hos­pi­tal.

Au­thor­i­ties said the bar had been crowded with young par­ty­go­ers on Au­gust 6.

Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls ex­pressed “deep sad­ness at the tragedy that claimed 13 young lives”.

Lo­cal deputy prose­cu­tor Lau­rent Labadie said the blaze, which be­gan around mid­night in the bar’s base­ment, was trig­gered ac­ci­den­tally.

“Some­one came down with a birthday cake with can­dles and fell down the stairs,” Mr Labadie said, cit­ing ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion find­ings.

“The can­dles were thrown onto the walls and ceil­ing, where there was sound­proof­ing ma­te­rial. There was an im­me­di­ate con­fla­gra­tion and gas was re­leased.”

Fire­fight­ers were soon on the scene but those in­side the bar were bat­tling deadly fumes as well as the flames.

Po­lice said that the fire had ig­nited poly­styrene on the ceil­ing of the base­ment room, re­leas­ing a toxic mix of gases that poi­soned the vic­tims.

One wit­ness, who gave her name as Stephanie, 36, de­scribed the mo­ment the fire took hold.

“I was at the bar on the ground floor hav­ing a drink, when we saw the flames – it was like a flame-thrower, everything hap­pened so fast,” she told re­porters.

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande voiced sym­pa­thy for the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will fo­cus on whether build­ing safety rules were flounted, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to fire ex­its and flammable ma­te­ri­als.

The bar, in a busy part of town and no more than 200 me­tres from the River Seine, was very pop­u­lar with young peo­ple.

The blaze was France’s dead­li­est since Septem­ber 2005 when an apart­ment build­ing fire in the Paris sub­urb of L’Hay-les-Roses killed 18 peo­ple.

Photo: AFP

Work­ers in­spect dam­age to Au Cuba Li­bre bar af­ter a fire in Rouen on Au­gust 6.

Photo: AFP

An en­ve­lope ad­dressed to ‘The fam­ily of the Amer­i­can lady’ lies among flo­ral tributes left near a crime scene in Lon­don’s Rus­sell Square where a man went on a stab­bing spree on Au­gust 3, killing US na­tional Dar­lene Hor­ton.

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