Twenty-four die in Paris hotel blaze; in a major incident in the French capital recently, at least 20 people have died and dozens hurt--in a fire that swept through a hotel in central Paris near the Galeries Lafayette luxury department store, fire officials said.(Incident Report)

THE BLAZE GUTTED THE SIX-STOREY Paris-Opera hotel and six children and tourists are believed to be among the dead and injured, said fire brigade spokesman Laurent Vibert.

"It was a serious fire," he said. "You don't often see such fires in Paris. There was only one staircase and the fire broke out on the lower floors. There was no explosion."

The fire began in the middle of the night while many of the victims were asleep.

At 0700 Paris time, smoke was still seeping from the blackened windows of the hotel's top two floors. Firefighters surrounded the building and the smell of smoke filled the air. A spokesperson said that some 250 firefighters were deployed to the hotel.

Store used as hospital

The ornate 99-year-old Galeries Lafayette store, popular with tourists and close to the 19th-century Garnier opera house, was used as a makeshift hospital to treat some of about 50 casualties. …

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