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At Least 12 Dead in France Apartment Fire

September 4, 2005

PARIS (AP) _ A suspected arson fire tore through a recently renovated high-rise apartment building south of Paris early Sunday, killing at least 12 people and injuring 16, firefighters and a local official said.

The blaze, the fourth deadly fire in the Paris area since April, broke out in the entrance hall of a 15-story housing project in the Val-de-Marne region south of the capital, the local fire brigade said.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but victims succumbed to toxic smoke, officials said.

About 200 firefighters rushed to the fire in the town of L’Hay-les-Roses, and medical teams set up a mobile treatment site.

At least nine people were seriously injured, said local fire brigade spokesman Alain Antonini.

Jean-Luc Marx, a local government spokesman, said authorities had opened an investigation into suspected arson. The building, which was constructed in the early 1970s, had recently undergone renovation, he said.

The government has announced a series of measures in response, including the planned construction of new housing and the eviction of squatters from buildings considered fire hazards in the wake of three other fires in Paris since April that have killed a total of 48 people _ mostly African immigrants.

On Friday, authorities evacuated about 140 squatters from two dilapidated Paris apartment houses, with police moving in over the protests of screaming mothers and the sobs of children.

On Saturday, thousands of people marched in Paris to demand better housing for the poor and condemn the eviction plans.

Update hourly