At least 13 people killed in fire at bar in northern France

Blaze at birthday party may have been started by candles on cake

french, chase, france, police, people smugglers, injuries, death, motorcyclist

File photo: Bob Edme/AP/Press Association Images

At least 13 people are dead after a fire during a birthday party at a bar in northern France.

Police say the fire broke out at a birthday party at the bar in the city of Rouen in Normandy.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve gave an initial count of 13 dead and six injured.

He says more than 50 firefighters are battling the blaze in the center of the city.

The fire started late Friday night or shortly after midnight. A judicial inquiry has been opened.

One source close to the investigation told the AFP news agency that candles on a birthday cake may have sparked the blaze.

At least one of the injured was in a critical condition, the secretary general of the Seine-Maritime prefecture Yvan Cordier said.

The local Paris-Normandy newspaper said the fire ignited in the basement of the Cuba Libre bar, which was rented for the birthday celebration.

The paper said the ceiling quickly ignited when candles were lit.

The neighbourhood was blocked off, and Rouen Mayor Yvon Robert went to the scene.

A tense France is on maximum terror alert after two attacks last month, the latest the killing of a priest in his church outside Rouen.

The funeral mass was held at the Rouen cathedral on Tuesday.