Firefighters recovered 11 bodies from the burned remains of a care home in northeastern France after a fire swept through it.
Firefighters evacuated 17 people, and one of them was taken to the hospital, police said earlier on Wednesday. Nathalie Kielwasser, deputy prosecutor for Colmar, said 11 people died at the scene.
On Wednesday Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted: “Early this morning, a fire broke out in a facility for disabled people" in the small town of Wintzenheim, close to the border with Germany.
"Despite the rapid and courageous intervention of the fire department several casualties are reported and rescue operations were still ongoing,” he said.
The local administration of the Haut-Rhin region said the fire broke out at 6:30 am in private accommodation in Wintzenheim.
The fire department deployed 76 firefighters, four fire engines, four ambulances and 40 police officers to contain the blaze and treat the victims.
According to the statement: “the fire was quickly brought under control”.
The secretary general of the Haut Rhin prefecture in eastern France, Christophe Marot, said there was "little doubt" the people had been in the centre and couldn't exit.
People on the ground floor were able to quickly leave the premises but not those upstairs, he said.
He said there was no indication of the cause of the blaze and added an investigation would be opened by regional prosecutors.
According to the fire department, the lodging was rented by an association in that helps people with learning difficulties.
The traditional semi-timbered building, built in the style of the Alsace region, was severely damaged by the fire, according to the firefighters.
The roof was destroyed by the flames and, on the first floor, the charred wooden framework was visible. Other firefighters were clearing wreckage away from the scene of the disaster with smoke still rising.
President Emmanuel Macron expressed his sorrow in a tweet. "My thoughts are with the victims, the injured, and their families," he said and thanked the rescue teams for their efforts.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also deplored the "horrible fire" and said she was on her way to visit the scene. "My first thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. I hail the mobilisation of the firefighters," she added.