Birthday cake may have triggered fatal bar fire in France

The fire in a restaurant in Rouen has claimed the lives of at least 13 people

Rouen, France, fire,

Image: Kamil Zihnioglu / AP/Press Association Images

A deadly fire at a birthday party in France could have been started after a woman carrying the cake tripped as she brought it downstairs, reports say.

The blaze, in which 13 people were killed, is thought to have taken hold in the basement of the Cuba Libre bar in Rouen, Normandy, which was hired out for the event.

The walls and low ceiling quickly ignited when the candles of the cake were lit and it fell on the floor, according to local media.

It is suggested the ceiling and walls were covered in foam padding, used to help sound-proof the room, and this material may have led to the flames spreading quickly.

Those killed are thought to have been aged between 18 and 25, and a number of them are believed to have died from the fumes.

Valerie Fouquet, who was next door when the blaze started, said: "I was about to sit when all of a sudden everything blew, we saw the smoke, we saw the flames, the chairs flew up, the window ... we got scared, we stepped away."

Six people were injured in the blaze, including one said to be in a critical condition.

A judicial inquiry is underway to establish the cause of the blaze, which happened shortly after midnight in the centre of the city in northern France.

More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze, which is not thought to be terror-related.