Thirteen people are dead and six injured after a fire tore through a crowded bar in the French city of Rouen.

Emergency services responded to calls to the Cuba Libre bar on Jacques-Cartier Avenue about 1am local time.

Firefighters took 30 minutes to control the blaze, which is believed to have started in the building's basement. There was no report of an explosion.

Six people were rushed to hospital while efforts are now underway to recover the bodies of the dead.

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All of the dead are believed to be aged 18 to 25.

Local reports suggest they were attending a birthday party.

The fire is believed to have been started by a birthday cake's candles.

Investigators have told Normandie.tv that the rapid spread of the fire through soundproofing in the basement's ceiling may have trapped many patrons.

Toxic fumes may also have played a part.

French police say 11 witnesses have been taken for questioning to help determine the cause and behaviour of the fire.