French Police Detain Woman in Connection with Paris Hotel Fire that Killed 22

PARIS (AP) -- French police detained a woman Monday in connection with a fire in a Paris hotel last week that killed 22 people, half of them children, judicial officials said.

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

The origins of the fire remained unknown. Investigators still favored the theory of an accident but wanted to question the woman over her whereabouts at the time of the fire, judicial officials said on customary condition of anonymity. Police could hold her up to 48 hours.

The hotel, in Paris' 9th district, housed mostly people in need who were placed there by social services.

Two associations that work with immigrants and the needy, Right to Housing and Rights First, led a demonstration Monday near the hotel to denounce ''the scandalous treatment the government reserves for the poor and the needy.''

Several dozen people joined the protest, including some former residents of the hotel who survived the deadly blaze.

The overcrowded 32-room hotel was meant to accommodate 61 people, but at least 90 people _ many of them Africans _ were known to be living there.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Sunday that he plans to work quickly toward new measures to reinforce fire regulations. He told Europe 1 radio that he has asked experts for proposals and that the matter should be handled with several weeks.

The hotel's fire prevention system had been checked March 24, and four recommendations to improve safety were issued, but the measures were insufficient to close down the hotel, police said.

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