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A 39-year-old man has been formally charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault after his ex-wife was allegedly set on fire in Quebec City.

Local police say the man was arraigned in Quebec City over the phone Sunday morning.

He is accused of setting fire to his ex-wife on Friday night in the city’s St-Sauveur neighbourhood as her young children and mother watched.

Witnesses described the woman screaming in pain as people helped tear off her fiery clothes and tried to smother the flames with a blanket.

Sergeant Etienne Doyon of the Quebec City police told reporters on Saturday that the 27-year-old victim was in critical condition after suffering major injuries to her face, back and hands.

Martyn Allard said he was sitting on his second-floor balcony when he spotted someone being chased by a person who appeared to be holding a torch.

When he looked closer, he said, he saw the woman was on fire.

“She was screaming ‘I’m on fire, I’m on fire, Help me!,“’ Mr. Allard said.

He said the woman was screaming in pain as he tore her fiery clothes off her while another person used blankets to put out the blaze.

“Her hair was on fire, she was like a human torch,” Mr. Allard said. “Her long hair was scorched, you could only smell gasoline.”

He said the woman was losing consciousness, but Mr. Allard said he urged her to stay alert until help arrived.

“I’m sure everyone heard her, they were cries of death,” Mr. Allard said.

“I’d never heard anything like it in my life.”

The man was arrested about 150 kilometres southwest of the provincial capital on Saturday and is being kept in detention until his case returns to court on Monday.

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