Paris hotel fire kills at least 15 people; guests jump out of windows to escape flames

A fire roared through a central Paris hotel early Friday, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens more, fire officials said. A witness said he saw several hotel guests leap from windows to escape the flames.

The fire occurred in the one-star Paris Opera hotel in the capital's 9th district, an area frequented by tourists. At least 55 people were injured, 13 seriously, said fire services spokesman Christophe Varennes. Many of the guests were African, fire officials said.

The injured came from France, the United States, Portugal, Senegal, Tunisia, Ukraine and Ivory Coast, Paris police said. Fire officials said a Canadian also was lightly injured. The nationalities of the dead were not given.

Firefighters rescued some people from the hotel, but others jumped out of windows to escape flames and choking smoke, fire officials said.

Chakib San, who lives in an adjacent building, said he was awakened by cries of "Fire! Fire!" He said he saw three people jump from low floors of the six-story building, including a woman and a child who lay motionless after hitting the ground.

"They were on the ground. They weren't moving," he said.

"Everyone was screaming," he added. "There were bodies in the road."

The injured were treated and the dead bodies temporarily stored in the Galaries Lafayette department store, one of Paris' busiest and most famous stores.

The fire took more than an hour to bring under control and was still smoldering hours later. Some 250 firefighters and 50 fire engines responded.

Nearly all of the six floors were blackened inside.

The dead were recovered "from the road, from inside, just about everywhere," fire services spokesman Laurent Vibert said.

The hotel owner believes the fire broke out in a second floor breakfast room, Vibert added.

San said he spoke to Australians, Canadians and Tunisians who escaped the fire. A woman who works in a nearby hotel brought out a ladder and together they used it to rescue a girl from the first floor, said San.

"We got out a little girl. The fire services arrived just afterward," he said.

JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer

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