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Woman admits to starting hotel blaze

PARIS: A woman detained in the fire that killed 22 persons at a budget hotel in Paris acknowledged that she started the blaze by accident, police said on Tuesday.

The woman was taken into custody on Monday, three days after the Paris Opera hotel burned down. She was identified by judicial officials as the girlfriend of one of the hotel's night watchmen.

The woman, not identified by name, acknowledged starting the fire accidentally, police headquarters said without providing details. The overcrowded hotel, in Paris' 9th district, housed mostly people in need, many of them African, who were placed there by social services.

The 32-room hotel was meant to accommodate 61 persons, but at least 90 persons were known to be living there.

Judicial officials said on Monday that the woman had been detained for questioning over her whereabouts at the time of the blaze, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m. Friday, and exactly how she spent her time.

The manager of the hotel, also not identified by name, was questioned on Sunday, two days after the fire.

Hours after the fire which devastated the hotel, firefighters speculated that it had started accidentally in a breakfast room. The prosecutors office opened an investigation for manslaughter. The exact origin of the blaze was not immediately known.

The Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that he planned to work quickly toward new measures to reinforce fire regulations. — AP

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