Firefighters stand in front of a building rue de Nemours in Paris on Saturday. Jacques Demarthon / AFP
Three people died and another was seriously injured in a fire that broke out in a building in central Paris in the early hours of Saturday, fire services said.
One of the victims died after jumping out of the window of the six-storey block of flats situated in the 11th district, which also housed a restaurant and a hammam, a spokesman for the fire services said.
The blaze was reported at around 5:00am (0300 GMT) and it took nearly four hours for 200 firefighters to bring it under control, according to fire captain Florian Lointier.
The cause of the fire, which still wasn't fully extinguished by 10:00 am, is still unknown. Prosecutors have already opened an investigation.
Lointier said that the layout of the building, which dates from 1970 and was undergoing repair work on its facade, made the rescue operations "complicated".
The heat from the blaze was very intense, he added.
A total of 27 people were treated for smoke inhalation, the rescue services said.
"We were asleep and at around 5:00 am, I smelt smoke. I opened the window and a fire truck was already there," said one witness, Jerome Cariati, who lives in an adjacent street.
"There was thick, black smoke and a nasty smell. There was shouting and a lot of noise. The people were standing in the street with nothing on their feet. They seemed in a state of shock."
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, after a colossal fire tore through the building, sending the spire crashing to the ground and wiping out centuries of heritage.
Some 400 firefighters tackled the huge blaze at the 12th century Gothic masterpiece and, oblivious to the danger they faced, saw their efforts rewarded as they saved the main structure.
Macron expressed relief that “the worst had been avoided” in a blaze that had at one point threatened the entire edifice, and left France in shock over the damage to a building described as the soul of the nation.
Four civil defense teams were at the site trying to douse the fire.
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