2 French boys dead, another 2 fighting for lives after falling into pond

PARIS (AFP) - Two young boys who had been placed in temporary accommodation by French social services have died after falling into an unguarded pond close to the hotel they were staying in, officials said on Sunday.

Two other boys were fighting for their lives after a total of five children aged between three and eight were discovered unconscious in the water on Saturday, having apparently been left unsupervised.

The fifth child, a five-year-old girl, was expected to make a full recovery. Two of the boys were eight, the others three and five.

The pond is located close to a cheap hotel on an industrial estate near Saint-Ouen-l'Aumone on the north-eastern outskirts of Paris.

The children had been housed there temporarily after their three single mothers had contacted an emergency service for families in urgent need of somewhere to stay, said Mr Guy Kauffmann, the head of social services for the local regional council.

"Their accommodation costs were partly funded by the council and they had only been in the hotel for a short time," he added.

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation Eric Maurel said on Saturday that nobody had seen the children enter the water.

The police were called by a hotel employee who was alerted by another child.

Mr Mickael Flour, who lives with his family in a caravan close to the pond, said children often played by the water.

"They like to throw sticks and stones," he told Agence France-Presse. "We would often tell them, don't go down there, it's dangerous."

Another local Sylviana Ternus, 29, added: "The children were often on their own, with no adult."