Fourteen people were injured, including four who required emergency treatment

Lyon (AFP) - Five children including a three-year-old were among 10 people killed when a fire broke out in a seven-storey apartment building in a suburb of the French city of Lyon, the government said Friday.

Fourteen people were injured, including four who required emergency treatment, after the fire erupted in Vaulx-en-Velin in the northern outskirts of Lyon, in eastern France, the local authorities said.

The fire was one of the deadliest such tragedies in a residential building in recent years, although the country has seen a sequence of similar incidents.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters in Paris before heading to the scene that 10 people were killed, including five children aged between three and 15.

“We do not know the cause of the fire and the investigation will be able to find out,” he said.

“It’s shocking and the toll is extremely heavy,” he said, adding he had discussed what had happened with President Emmanuel Macron.

The fire was put out, local authorities said, adding that the blaze erupted shortly after 3:00 am (0200 GMT) in Vaulx-en-Velin.

- ‘Really terrible’ -

“I heard people shouting ‘help, help, help, help us’,” said Assed Belal, a young resident of the neighbourhood who was there during the fire.

“There were people on the ground, others stuck on the balconies and the firefighters had difficulty in intervening because of the trees,” he told AFP.

He said his friends had told him they managed to catch a 10-year-old boy who was thrown from an upper floor by his mother to save his life.

“We all know each other, it’s really terrible, I don’t have the words,” he added.”

Two firefighters suffered light injuries while battling the blaze, which broke out on the ground floor of the building, they said.

Smoke as well as flames then surged upwards, putting all the residents of the building in danger.

Nearly 170 firefighters had been deployed at the building.

“It was horrific,” said Mohamed, whose last name was not given, the cousin of a resident who managed to escape from the fourth floor to safety with his two children.

- ‘Difficult conditions’ -

The emergency services were busy on the scene with ambulances, trucks and flashing lights, according to an AFP photographer.

In the middle of the night and on one of the coldest nights of the winter, the rescue operation took place in “difficult conditions”, said Darmanin.

The area has often been the scene of social tensions in the Lyon suburbs

A large security cordon was set up in the area, a district that had been undergoing a process of substantial urban renewal.

The area had often been the scene of social tensions in the Lyon suburbs, sometimes gritty areas in total contrast to the glitzy city centre which is a magnet for international gastro-tourism.

But the local authorities in the early 2000s launched a program worth 100 million euros to revamp it into a so-called “eco-district” to develop local shops and expand public transport.

In February 2019, 10 people were killed and 96 wounded in a fire in Paris which was the deadliest in the French capital since 2005.

In 2005, 24 people were killed in a fire in a residential home used by families of African origin. A woman was jailed for starting it by throwing clothes on candles during an argument.