Two small children managed to save themselves from a burning apartment in the city of Grenoble in southeastern France, falling more than 10 metres from a window and being caught by neighborhood neighbors. French media said the two brothers were undamaged from the fall, but may have suffered smoke inhalation, the Associated Press reports.
Footage of the dramatic rescue showed that one of the brothers was thrown from at least three floors as the flames engulfed a balcony and black smoke was coming out of the building’s windows. As the neighbors screamed, the older brother hung up through the window of the apartment and then dropped into people’s arms.
The children were hospitalized along with 17 of the building’s neighbors, according to French media. Four of the people who caught the children were also hospitalized to see if they had any bones fractured from the impact of the jumps. Athoumani Walid, 25, a student in Grenoble, broke one of his dolls while helping to catch the children. He heard screaming and went out to investigate after seeing the fire at his nearby apartment. With four other people, he tried to help immediately. «We didn’t know what to do, but we walked» to the apartment that was on fire, Walid told The Associated Press on Wednesday. «We wanted to break the door, but it wasn’t possible.» So they went down the stairs and yelled at the children to climb into their arms.
Although he initially feared for the children, «when they jumped, the fear disappeared, what mattered was catching them,» he said. Walid hopes that this episode will change the perceptions of the people of the Villeneuve district of Grenoble, where the events occurred and where there is a large population of immigrants. «We’re told it’s a neighborhood,» Walid said, «but yesterday we showed that we’re here for each other and saved ourselves.»
Eric Piolle, the mayor of Grenoble, congratulated the residents of Villeneuve on the rescue, and said this episode underscores the city’s «tradition of solidarity and mutual help». In May 2018, a young Malian migrant rescued a child hanging from a balcony and was offered French citizenship. The rescue video showed Mamoudou Gassama, 22, climbing four stories from the apartment building in just seconds to rescue the boy, to applaud viewers. By the time the Parisian emergency services arrived at the building, he had already taken the child to safety.