Dozens injured in explosion
▶ Two firefighters and a tourist killed in Paris gas blast
A powerful gas explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday killing a Spanish woman and two firefighters hailed as heroes by French President Emmanuel Macron. Dozens more were injured in the blast, which also badly damaged nearby apartments, officials said.
Around 200 firefighters were mobilized to battle the fire that broke out after the explosion and evacuate victims and residents in the area, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene.
The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.
Cars were overturned by the blast, and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street, after the explosion gutted the lower part of the building. Dozens of residents were treated by rescue workers on the road.
As well as the three dead, 47 people were injured in the blast, 10 of them seriously, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The two firefighters who died were aged 27 and 28, the office added.
A source in the Spanish foreign ministry said a woman who was holidaying with her husband in Paris died in hospital after the blast, while another Spanish national was also injured.
Macron tweeted his condolences to the “families, loved ones and comrades of the two hero firefighters,” adding that his thoughts were with all the victims.
Around 100 police officers blocked off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions including the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
Police also closed off streets in front of the Garnier Opera house as emergency services landed two helicopters in front of the historic building to evacuate victims.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9:00 am in a building that housed a bakery as well as a restaurant on the ground floor. The cause was thought to be accidental, “but at this stage we do not exclude any hypothesis,” Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz added.