A six-year-old girl died and two others were fighting for their lives after a floor collapsed during an Easter service ‘song and dance’ in France.
Many more were seriously injured in the disaster in an improvised church outside Paris, with two men including a pastor now arrested for manslaughter.
Some 150 worshippers were taking part in the evangelic service at the building mainly used by Haitian immigrants on a housing estate.
As a band including a piano and guitars played, many were jumping up and down to the music when the floor gave way.
The tragedy led to the pastor of the group, known as the Armed Fighters for Christ New Jerusalem, and the owner of the building being arrested.
A two-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman were, meanwhile, in the intensive care unit of a hospital close to the disaster scene in Stains, in the northern Seine-St-Denis suburb of Paris.
‘A song and dance had started and there was a huge crack and suddenly the floor gave way, plunging everybody downwards,’ said one of the worshippers.
‘A huge cloud of dust appeared and everyone started screaming. Then we realised people including young children had been badly hurt. It was an absolute disaster.’
The congregation fell more than 8ft from the first floor of the disused building to the ground floor.
Police confirmed that two men were arrested and faced charged of manslaughter and causing actual bodily harm.
‘One is a pastor of the group,’ said a spokesman, who explained that they had been meeting in the disused building for around four years.
Christian Lambert, governor of Seine-St-Denis, said the building had been in good condition, but was not designed for evangelic church services.
‘Worshippers fell through the floor,’ she added, explaining that some 32 other people beyond the dead little girl and the two others in intensive care were badly hurt. The names of the dead and injured have so far not been released.
President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his ‘personal solidarity’ with the families of the victims.
He said that some 150 firefighters were involved in the emergency operation, together with a helicopter.
Some of those taking part in the service were survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake in which some 316,000 died, 300,000 were badly injured and 1million made homeless.