Paris, Feb 5 (AP/UNB) — A fire in a Paris apartment building early Tuesday that authorities suspect was an arson attack killed eight people and sent residents fleeing to the roof or climbing out their windows to escape.
A 40-year-old female resident was detained at the scene as police opened an investigation into voluntary arson resulting in death.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who spoke at the scene Tuesday morning, said the woman was known to have had mental health issues.
"I want to salute the huge mobilization of the Paris firefighters," he said. "More than 250 people arrived immediately and, throughout the night, saved over 50 people in truly exceptional conditions."
Firefighters rescued some from the roof as well as others who had clambered out of windows to escape the flames. Among the injured were at least six firefighters.
Castaner said the blaze that started on the second floor, had been extinguished and that 36 people were being treated for "relatively" light injuries.
City fire service spokesman Clement Cognon told The Associated Press that firefighters went door to door to ensure there are no more victims and prevent residual fires.
"The situation was already dramatic when the firefighters arrived," Cognon said.
Emergency workers are also seeking to shore up the building that was badly damaged after flames shot out of windows stretching across the upper floors, in images of the operation released by the fire service.
Prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters at the scene that authorities suspect it was a criminal act.
"I heard a woman screaming in the street, crying and screaming for help," said witness Jacqueline Ravier, who lives across the street. She saw a young man blackened by smoke and a woman motionless on the ground. She said flames were shooting out for hours from the top of the building and smoke-covered victims were fleeing.
She said shaken residents were brought to her building and the one next door while firefighters continued to fight the flames.
"We feel the smoke," she said. "What's surprising is how long it lasted."
The building is on Rue Erlanger in the 16th arrondissement, one of the most high-end and calmest districts of Paris. It is close to the popular Bois de Boulogne park and about 1 kilometer (less than a mile) from the Roland Garros stadium that hosts the French Open tennis tournament and near the Parc de Princes stadium that's home to Paris Saint-Germain, the country's top soccer team.
More than 200 firefighters and emergency workers were involved in the operation, Paris police said, and the street was blocked off. Neighboring buildings were also evacuated.
The fire comes a month after a deadly explosion and blaze linked to a gas leak in a Paris bakery.
Brisbane, Feb 5 (AP/UNB) — Australia's prime minister has toured the flood-stricken city of Townsville where two men have been reported missing.
While floodwater receded in Townsville on Tuesday, overnight monsoonal rain caused flash-flooding in communities to the north where authorities have warned residents to move to higher ground.
And police are still searching for two men who were last seen on Monday morning near floodwaters.
Authorities have warned Townsville residents not to swim in flood waters, in which crocodiles and snakes have been spotted.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited a new housing estate where scores of homes had been inundated.
Brussels, Feb 5 (AP/UNB) — The European Union and Arab League say they agree on tackling conflicts in Syria and Yemen or stalled Middle East peace efforts but were unable to approve a joint statement at talks in Brussels.
The organizations' ministers were preparing Monday for a summit in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Feb 24-25.
Asked about the holdup, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said "common ground was there on 90-95 percent of issues."
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit pointed out that there were "more complications on the European side rather than the Arab side."
Mogherini replied: "I would say rather the contrary."
Hungary objects to migration provisions in the statement, but the Europeans also want to avoid being seated around a summit table with Syria or Sudan's leaders.
Budapest, Feb 5 (AP/UNB) — Two former executives of an alumina plant in Hungary were convicted and sentenced to prison Monday for an industrial disaster that killed eight people and injured more than 220 in flooded towns and villages, a Hungarian court said.
Zoltan B., the former CEO of MAL Zrt., received a prison term of 2 ½ years for public endangerment and other crimes, while Jozsef D., a deputy CEO, received a two-year sentence.
In keeping with privacy rules, the court did not identify the defendants by their full names.
On Oct. 4, 2010, a wall of a huge reservoir of the plant collapsed, flooding three towns and villages with about 2 million cubic meters (528 million gallons) of toxic red sludge and water.
The highly alkaline mix burned the skin of the victims, some of whom were swept away by the force of the rushing flood and drowned. One of the victims was 14 months old.
Eight other people on trial for the 2010 disaster received suspended prison sentences, fines or reprimands, while the city court in Gyor acquitted five. All 15 defendants were acquitted of all charges in 2016, but an appeals court ordered a retrial.
Monday's ruling was appealed by prosecutors, who asked for stricter sentences, and by most of the convicted defendants, seeking leaner penalties.
The trial court ruled that MAL Zrt. managers and employees broke numerous rules regarding the storage and handling of the leftover sludge and water from producing alumina, the main raw material for making aluminum.
"The defendants' negligence contributed to the catastrophe, since they did not deal with the warning signs of a possible breach," the court said in a statement. "And they misled area residents and authorities regarding the true amount and toxicity of water accumulated due to the rule violations, which ultimately became determinant factors of the catastrophe."
The court also said the defendants did not notify authorities or were late doing so regarding the sludge flood and its toxicity. The former CEO also made willfully misleading statements about the dangers of the spill, the court found.
The amount of water stored in the 25-hectare (61.8-acre) reservoir, over 1 million cubic meters (264 million gallons), was more than twice the limit and its toxicity exceeded the permissible level.
In its ruling Monday, the court also faulted poor planning, construction and maintenance of the reservoir.
Environmental group Greenpeace called the convictions "historic" but added that questions about the responsibility of the authorities in charge of overseeing the plant — which in some cases didn't operate according to norms — remained unanswered.
"For Hungary to avoid similar catastrophes in the future, it needs independent and effective authorities," Greenpeace said in a statement. "And strong and operative laws which are able to ensure the most important principle of environmental protection — 'the polluter pays.'"
London, Feb 5 (AP/UNB) — A British official has signed an order that paves the way for tycoon Vijay Mallya's extradition to India to face financial fraud allegations.
The government office that oversees immigration and other issues said in a statement issued on Monday that Home Secretary Sajid Javid "carefully considered all relevant matters" before signing the extradition order.
Mallya has 14 days to appeal.
Known for his flashy lifestyle, he was a leading figure among India's business elite. He launched Kingfisher Airlines and owned a stake in the Force India Formula One team.
Mallya is accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offenses.
He has multiple medical problems, but British Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled last month he could receive adequate medical care in prison if he were extradited.