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Mother, seven children die in fire in France

By AFP - Feb 06,2023 - Last updated at Feb 06,2023

Firefighters work in front of the house after a fire broke out in the house of a blended family of nine members in Charly-sur-Marne, northern France, on Monday (AFP photo)

CHARLY-SUR-MARNE, France — A mother and her seven children aged two to 14 died on Monday after a faulty dryer apparently set ablaze their house in eastern France, authorities said.

The fire, the deadliest such blaze involving children in France in a decade, broke out shortly after midnight in the rented family home in Charly-sur-Marne, a town around 80 kilometres east of Paris in the Champagne region.

The mother and her children suffocated from black smoke that filled their home while they were trapped in the attic, local prosecutor Julien Morino-Ros told AFP.

The origin of the fire appeared to have been a malfunctioning clothes dryer on the ground floor of the house, he said.

Neighbours called the fire department to report the blaze just before 1:00am (00:00 GMT).

The woman's husband, father to three of the children, was saved by a firefighter who lives nearby and who intervened before his colleagues arrived, officials said.

The father sustained serious but not life-threatening burn injuries and was taken to hospital.

According to the prosecutor, he had tried to put out the fire and told his wife and the children — five girls and two boys — to seek refuge from the flames in their converted attic on the second floor.


'We saw the horror' 


But that move turned tragic as more and more black smoke billowed up through the staircase.

Firefighters struggled to get ladders to the top windows of the house, because of the narrowness of the street where it is located in the centre of the village of 2,600 inhabitants.

The electric window blinds were blocked shut because of a power cut triggered by the faulty appliance, further hindering the rescue effort, the prosecutor said.

The eight victims died of smoke poisoning, not burns, he added.

"I hope with all my heart that they didn't feel or see anything," said Sylvie Corre, the house owner's wife.

"We were there on the street all night and we saw the horror," she told AFP by telephone.

She said the 40-year-old father worked for the Corre family's small champagne-producing business and was an "excellent employee".

His wife, also in her 40s, was a full-time mother.

Corre said the house met safety standards. "Obviously there will be a technical investigation and anything is possible," she said.

The prosecutor said there was no early indication of any safety issues with the house despite it being "a bit old".

It took 80 firefighters several hours to put out the blaze at the home, which is located down a narrow street in the centre of the village of 2,600 inhabitants.

Residents in a neighbouring house that was damaged by the blaze were evacuated from their home and firefighters blocked off the street to onlookers.

"I just saw smoke, lots of smoke," said Evelyine Renaud, a local resident. "Those poor children."

Another neighbour, who gave her name only as Nadine, said she often saw the mother pick up her kids from school. "I really liked that family," she said.

Pupils and teachers at the children's schools were being offered psychological support, said Catherine Albaric-Delpech, a regional education official.

"It's not much when you consider the drama that has happened here," she said.

The tragedy was the worst such incident in France since 2013, when five children between two and nine died asphyxiated in an accidental fire, also in northern France.

In the most recent similar accident, 10 people including four children died in December 2022 in a seven-storey building that was being renovated in a working-class district of Vaulx-en-Velin, near the southeastern city of Lyon.

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