A Paris prosecutor says that two have been killed, and 47 have been injured in a blast at a bakery that was apparently caused by a gas leak in central Paris.
- Authorities have said the explosion had no probable malicious intent
- Firefighters were already attending to reports of a gas leak when the blast struck
- Ten people, including two firefighters, are in hospital in a critical condition
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who incorrectly reported four fatalities, told reporters at the scene “unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious”.
He said 10 people are in critical condition and 37 others less seriously injured.
He paid homage to the courage of rescuers who saved the life of one firefighter who was buried under the rubble for two and a half hours.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was also at the scene, extended a “message of affection and solidarity” to the victims.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said “at this stage we can say it seems from accidental origin, this would be a gas leak”.
He said that Paris firefighters were already at the scene for a suspected gas leak on Saturday morning when the explosion happened.
Investigations are ongoing to determine the exact cause of the blast.
Authorities were on high alert in the French capital for a ninth consecutive weekend of “yellow vest” protests, with large parts of the city centre blocked off by riot police.
The force of the blast shattered nearby storefronts and rocked buildings hundreds of metres away, witnesses said.
“The situation is now under control,” Mr Castaner said.
He said more than 200 firemen were involved in the rescue operation.
(AP: Thibault Camus)
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.
An eyewitness who was staying at a hotel nearby said he saw a huge fire erupt in the building blown out by the blast.
“There was broken glass everywhere, storefronts were blown out and windows were shattered up to the third and fourth floors,” 38-year-old David Bangura said.
He said that as he approached the scene, a woman was crying for help from the first floor of a building: “Help us, help us, we have a child”.
Two helicopters landed on the nearby Place de l’Opera to evacuate victims.