A blaze ripped through a vacation rental where 28 travelers were staying in a small idyllic commune in northeastern France on Wednesday morning, killing 11 people, French officials said.
Seventeen people — mostly those staying on the ground floor — were able to escape, said Lt. Col. Philippe Hauwiller, who was in charge of the rescue operation. Some people on the mezzanine and an upper level were trapped as the blaze spread through the building. Smoke inhalation was the most likely cause of death, Mr. Hauwiller said. One person was hospitalized for smoke inhalation but was not in critical condition, a firefighter told Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne during a televised conversation. The prime minister was visiting the site of the blaze on Wednesday afternoon.
The authorities were still searching for the cause of the blaze.
The vacationers included people with mental disabilities and people accompanying them on an organized trip, said President Emmanuel Macron of France, who called the blaze a “tragedy” on social media. The trip was organized by two separate groups who specialize in working with people with disabilities. The travelers from both groups were staying in the same house.
Ms. Borne traveled to the area on Wednesday with Aurore Bergé, the country’s minister for solidarity, personal independence and disabled people.
“With the prime minister, we are going there to support the victims, their families, the supervisors and to pay tribute to the emergency services,” Ms. Bergé wrote on social media.
The fire started at 6:30 a.m. local time in Wintzenheim, which is in an area of France near the borders of Germany and Switzerland. Dozens of firefighters helped battle the blaze, and emergency medical workers arrived within 15 minutes, according to officials. The fire was under control as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Given the extent of the fire when we arrived,” Mr. Hauwiller said, “it is probable that the victims had already died by the time we arrived.”
Claire Moses is a reporter for the Express desk in London. More about Claire Moses
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