At Least 9 Dead After 'Violent Flames' Destroy Vacation Home

2 more missing, feared dead after fire overtakes French facility for people with learning disabilities
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2023 7:21 AM CDT
At Least 9 Dead After 'Violent Flames' Destroy Vacation Home
Stock photo of a French police car.   (Getty Images/Ben185)

At least 17 people were evacuated from a French vacation home for people with learning disabilities after a fire broke out early Wednesday, with one person hospitalized, but another nine were killed and two remain missing and feared dead, local authorities tell CNN affiliate BFMTV. The cause of the fire at the facility in Wintzenheim, located near the German border, still isn't clear, but a rescue operation is ongoing, according to the country's interior minister, Gerald Darmanin.

"We're almost certain of the death of the missing people," Christophe Marot, a senior local official, told France 3 TV, per Reuters, adding, "We're cautious until we've located all the bodies." Local media notes that the missing and dead include one staff member and 10 adults with disabilities, the latter of whom hailed from the city of Nancy, according to a statement from the local government of the Haut-Rhin region. Marot says that people on the ground floor of the burning building were able to quickly get out, while those on a higher level couldn't. "We know that people were trapped," Marot tells BFMTV, which notes the building was overtaken by "violent flames," per the statement. "It's very tragic."

The victims are believed to range in age from their mid-20s to 50, according to Wintzenheim Deputy Mayor Daniel Leroy. More than six dozen firefighters were at the scene to battle the blaze, which broke out around 6:30am local time in an old converted three-story barn, per the BBC. The AP notes that 40 cops and four ambulances were also on-site to help with rescue efforts. Firefighters said about two-thirds of the building was burning at one point, but they soon were able to bring it under control. "My thoughts go out to the victims, to the injured, to their loved ones," French President Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter, now known as X. (More France stories.)

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