At least seven people have been killed including two children in a fire caused by an explosion in the French Pyrenees, which is now being probed as arson.
An explosion was heard at around 1.30 am today, before a huge fire broke out at a home in Pyrénées-Orientales.
A 27-year-old man was seriously injured after jumping from an upstairs window to avoid the flames, while more than a hundred firefighters raced to the scene.
Not everyone inside was able to be saved as floors collapsed inside the building.
Firefighters managed to rescue 29 people, four of whom needed to be taken to hospital in Perpignan with three suffering with smoke inhalation.
The seven victims have not yet been identified.
Local prosecutor Jean-David Cavaillé said: “A preliminary enquiry for arson causing death has been opened.”
Initial reports suggest at least 11 apartments were affected.
Officials believe an explosion occurred on the ground floor of the building, at the level of a grocery-sandwich shop.
The mayor of the rural town Alain Got told local reporters: “When I went to the scene, there was smoke everywhere.
“The floors let go, the roof let go.”
He added that the cause of the fire was still unknown.
Local resident named Isabelle told France Bleu: “I was sleeping, I heard a boom, I thought it was a storm.
“I was in my bed, the shutters opened, the edges of the windows moved.
“I was very scared, I quickly went downstairs. People were in a panic in the street, they were shouting.
“We came to take refuge here with my neighbour, we couldn’t go back to our apartments, there’s too much smoke. I haven’t slept all night, I’m too shocked.”
A police spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.
“We will mobilise to help them as best we can in these most tragic circumstances.”
The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has also said he is on his way to the scene.
Firefighters are still at the scene, but work has slowed for fear of the building collapsing further.
An investigation has been opened to determine the causes of the explosion.