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CANDLES MAY ACCOUNT FOR DEADLY PARIS FIRE

A night watchman's girlfriend who placed candles on the floor to set the scene for a romantic tryst but then left in a rage over his drunken state may have accidentally caused last week's hotel fire that killed 24 people, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The 31-year-old woman, identified only as Fatima, told police she placed a dozen burning candles on the floor of the breakfast room of the Paris Opera hotel, then she became angry that her boyfriend was drunk, and she threw clothes on the floor and left.

The night watchman, whose name was not released, was in a coma, judicial officials said.

France-3 television said the man was "between life and death" after having jumped from an upper floor window during the fire. The report could not be confirmed.

The death toll increased Tuesday to 24, including 11 children. Twenty-seven people remained hospitalized, 14 in serious condition, officials said.

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