Authorities are saying that a sweeping and tragic fire raced through the basement of a bar in France’s northwestern city of Rouen, killing at least 13 people while injuring six others.
The fire comes just as France is on high alert following a recent slew of deadly terror attacks, including a tragedy that hit right outside of Rouen in which a priest was murdered by two Islamic State radicals.
However, according to Mayor of Rouen, Yvon Robert, the blaze was “totally accidental”, with at least 80 firefighters responding to the scene.
It was downtown in the basement of the Cuba Libre bar that a young crowd aged 18 to 25 was celebrating a birthday when the fire broke out. While the full amount of individuals in the bar remains untold, Robert described the fire as being “very brief”.
“There was no explosion,” said vice prosecutor Laurent Labadie as he spoke with the Associated Press. “Candles on a birthday cake started the fire after the person who carried it tripped on the stairs leading to the basement.”
Labadie went on to explain that flammable sound-insulating material on the basement’s walls quickly ignited, giving party guests no time to escape from the basement, making this the deadliest fire in France since 2005.
So far, identification on the bodies are still ongoing.
“Young people, some of them very young, had their lives cut short,” said French junior minister Clotilde Valter. “These are extremely painful circumstances for everybody.”