A centre designed to house 200 homeless people in an upscale neighbourhood of Paris suffered damage in a fire Monday, prompting the mayor to condemn what she said was likely attempted arson.

"The observations made this morning suggest an attempt at arson at the bottom of the building's facade," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said. She added that the city would be a civil party to the case.

Half of the people to be housed in the centre in western Paris are families, Hidalgo said. She added that the centre's opening would not be delayed by the fire.

Television images showed the centre's wooden facade charred near its bottom, with damage around the windows. Broadcaster BFMTV reported that a glass bottle with flammable liquid was found on site.

The prosecutor's office said an investigation had been opened.

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