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THREE peo­ple died and nearly 50 were in­jured in a mas­sive gas ex­plo­sion that gut­ted the ground floor of a build­ing in a cen­tral Paris shop­ping district on Satur­day, au­thor­i­ties said. The ac­ci­dent oc­curred with Paris un­der se­cu­rity lock­down for a ninth con­sec­u­tive Satur­day of “yel­low vest” protests, with large parts of the French cap­i­tal blocked off by riot po­lice.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner told re­porters that two fire­fight­ers had died of their in­juries from the gas blast.

“As fire­men were look­ing for a gas leak in the build­ing, a dra­matic ex­plo­sion took place,” Cas­taner said, adding that one of the fire­men had been buried un­der de­bris for sev­eral hours. He said that Paris fire­fight­ers were al­ready at the scene for a sus­pected gas leak on Satur­day morn­ing when

French PM also vis­ited the scene of blast

the ex­plo­sion hap­pened. In­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing to de­ter­mine the ex­act cause of the blast.

A Paris po­lice spokes­woman said fire­fight­ers are cur­rently at the scene of the blast at the bak­ery on Rue Tre­vise in the 9th ar­rondisse­ment of north-cen­tral Paris. Sev­eral of those in­jured in the blast were sit­ting in the street eat­ing their break­fast when the bak­ery ex­ploded. Wit­nesses told lo­cal me­dia that if felt as if there had been an earthquake, with build­ings rocked sev­eral hun­dred me­tres by the blast.

French PM Edouard Philippe ar­rived at the scene around an hour af­ter the blast to in­spect the dam­age. Sil­ver-hel­meted fire­fight­ers and red firetrucks filled the street and in­spected ad­join­ing court­yards. De­bris from a burned car and bro­ken glass lit­tered the pave­ment. A ve­hi­cle from gas com­pany GRDF was sta­tioned nearby. The build­ing is around the cor­ner from the FoliesBerg­ere theater and not far from the shop­ping district that in­cludes the famed head­quar­ters of Ga­leries Lafayette.

The ex­plo­sion came amid heavy se­cu­rity in Paris and around

Around 200 fire­fight­ers were sent to the scene to res­cue sur­vivors in the city’s 9th district

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