Source Pravda.Ru

Woman acknowledges accidentally starting hotel blaze as death toll climbs to 23

A woman detained in a deadly Paris hotel fire acknowledged that she started the blaze by accident, police said Tuesday as the death toll climbed a notch to 23.

The woman was taken into custody Monday, three days after the Paris Opera hotel burned down. She was identified by judicial officials as the girlfriend of one of the hotel's night watchmen.

The woman, not identified by name, acknowledged starting the fire accidentally, police headquarters said. Police Chief Pierre Mutz had made the announcement to a meeting of Paris officials. Police did not immediately provide details about the woman's disclosures.

Meanwhile, hospital officials said that a man who had been one of nearly a dozen people seriously injured in the blaze died during treatment, bringing the death toll to 23. The nationalities of the dead have not been provided, but many of those living in the hotel were needy Africans. Some 50 people were injured in all.

The overcrowded hotel, in Paris' 9th district, housed mostly people in need who were placed there by social services.

The 32-room hotel was meant to accommodate 61 people, but at least 90 people were known to be living there.

Judicial officials said Monday that the woman had been detained for questioning over her whereabouts at the time of the blaze, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m. Friday, and exactly how she spent her time.

The manager of the hotel, also not identified by name, was questioned Sunday, two days after the fire.

Hours after the fire which devastated the hotel, firefighters speculated that it had started accidentally in a breakfast room. The prosecutors office opened an investigation for manslaughter. The exact origin of the blaze was not immediately known.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Sunday that he plans to work quickly toward new measures to reinforce fire regulations. He said experts had been asked for proposals and that the matter should be handled within several weeks.

The hotel's fire prevention system had been checked March 24, and four recommendations to improve safety were issued, but the problems were insufficient to close down the hotel, police said.

AP

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