Witnesses spoke of scenes of horror and mayhem after a fire tore through a seven-storey Paris building, housing 130 people, mainly African immigrants.
"Lots of people wanted to jump out of the windows, children were crying," building caretaker Oumar Cisse was quoted as saying by BBC.
The blaze broke out in the stairwell of the dilapidated apartment block shortly after midnight, French officials said.
"My door was totally burnt, my son threw water then we were saved by the firemen," said a shaken Mr Cisse.
"I heard children cry, families scream," he said, adding that his "neighbours lost children".
As Pravda.ru said earlier, at least 17 people - including six children - were killed and about 30 others were injured in the incident.
A fire brigade spokesman told reporters that the stairwell in the overcrowded building "was immediately burnt out, that's why the people took to the windows".
Photo by BBC.