Women and children die in blaze at Roma squat

Two women and a child died in a blaze at a derelict factory near the city of Lyon that was being used as a makeshift camp by hundreds of Roma people, firefighters reported on Monday. Authorities say the death toll could yet rise.

Women and children die in blaze at Roma squat
File photo of another Roma camp beofre it was dismantled by French police. Photo: AFP

At least three people, including a child, died in France overnight after a blaze engulfed an abandoned factory that was housing nearly 300 Roma squatters in the southeastern city of Lyon, officials said on Monday.

Up to seven people in all could have perished in the fire, which began shortly after midnight and completely destroyed the building on Rue Audibert et Lavirotte in the 8th arrondissement of the city, fire fighters and police said.

Officials said two women and a child were confirmed dead.

Local human rights activists said the building was mostly used by women and children, who slept in the attic.

Scores of survivors were rescued and were being housed in the gymnasium of a local school on Monday.

Police dogs have been brought in to help in the search for possible survivors, however the operation has been hampered by the fact the building is in danger of collapse.

The French government has come under fire in recent months for its continued policy of dismantling the Roma camps and expelling the occupants back to their home countries in eastern Europe. 

The government claims the conditions in these camps are dangerous and unsanitary where as critics argue alternative accommodation needs to be found before the squats are pulled down.

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Fire ravages building near Paris opera house

Police in the French capital have advised people to avoid the Boulevard des Capucines, near Place de l'Opéra, after a building caught fire.

A large fire has broken out near Paris' Place de l'Opéra. Emergency services say to avoid the area.
A large fire has broken out near Paris' Place de l'Opéra (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

A large building has caught fire on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris’ 9th arrondissement. 

Images posted on social media show plumes of black smoke coming out of the old haussmanian building as fire engines attend to the blaze.

It is not yet clear what the cause of the fire was. 

French police have advised the public to stay away from the area to allow access for fire engines. 

We will be updating this story as we get more information.