A fire broke out at a vacation home for adults with disabilities in eastern France on Wednesday, killing at least nine people, the chief of rescue operations said.
Authorities said 17 people had been evacuated, including one who was hospitalized with serious injuries. Lieutenant Colonel Philip Hoyler, who was leading the firefighters’ rescue work, said he believed two more people had died.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrived at the scene on Wednesday afternoon. Officials told rescuers that they believed they had located 11 victims with the help of search dogs but that not all of the bodies had been found yet.
Howiller said the fire likely started in the upper floor of the home and the investigation will determine the cause. Only those who were staying on the ground floor of the private residence in Wintzenheim, he said, managed to escape.
According to Howiller, the remaining eleven passengers were trapped on the upper deck and in a collapsed mezzanine.
The ground floor was built of stone and the upper part of the building was built entirely of wood in the traditional style of the area, which may partly explain why the fire spread so quickly.
A statement from the Haut-Rhin prefecture said the group staying at the house was on vacation sponsored by two associations, and many of the visitors came from the eastern French city of Nancy.
The local administration of the Haut-Rhin region said the fire broke out at 6:30 a.m. Christophe Marot, general secretary of the local administration, told France Info news radio that vacationers included adults with “slight mental disabilities”.
It is believed that among the dead were 10 disabled people and a person who was accompanying the group.
No other information about the victims was provided.
The fire department deployed 76 firefighters, four fire engines and four ambulances to contain the fire and treat the victims. Forty police officers were also mobilized.
The statement said the fire had been brought under control.
French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X: “In the face of this tragedy, my thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their families. Thank you to our security forces and emergency services.”
The story was contributed by writer Youssef Bonab in Paris.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”