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Fire destroys home for asylum seekers in Austria

A home for asylum seekers has been destroyed in a fire in Austria. Police have said arsonists were most likely responsible for the blaze.

Investigators have reportedly found evidence that someone setting fire overnight to the newly built Red Cross center in Altenfelden in the province of Upper Austria.

"We found two sources along the building's outer walls[...]where unknown suspects are thought to have started the fire," police said in a statement, adding that investigations were ongoing.

The first residents had yet to move in. The huge fire left only charred remains of the wooden building. No one was harmed in the blaze, which was battled by up to 200 firefighters.

The Red Cross had planned to start operating the home for 48 asylum-seekers in two weeks.

"Until several hours ago, I would not have imagined that something like this could happen in Altenfelden," Mayor Klaus Gattringer told Austria's APA news agency.

The new Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen

The new Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen

Austria ambivalent about refugees

Many Austrians are unhappy about the arrival of asylum-seekers. In May, a candidate from the far-right

Freedom Party

(FPOe) was very close to being elected to the largely ceremonial presidency, losing by just 31,026 votes to an independent, Alexander Van der Bellen.

"We have no indications at all that people in the village were at all unhappy," Red Cross spokesman Stefan Neubauer told the AFP news agency.

Austria last year took in 90,000 asylum seekers

, more than 1 percent of its population.

Austria's Interior Ministry recorded 25 violations targeting asylum homes in 2015, some of them arson and attacks with fireworks. Four men injured several asylum-seekers in the town of Wiener Neustadt with plastic bullets.

Rebuilding to go ahead

"We will nevertheless carry out our duty to aid people looking for help and will seek out discussion with the regional authorities in the coming days to rebuild the centre as soon as possible," Red Cross president Walter Aichinger said.

The Red Cross said it estimates the damages to be around 300,000 euros ($335,000).

Watch video 26:03

Crisis in Austria: Another Blow for Europe?

jbh/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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