Three dead in Parisian bak­ery gas blast

Build­ing ex­plodes as fire­fight­ers look for gas leak


PARIS (Reuters) – Two French fire­fight­ers and a Span­ish cit­i­zen died and nearly 50 peo­ple were in­jured in a gas ex­plo­sion that gut­ted the ground floor of a build­ing in a cen­tral Paris shop­ping dis­trict on Satur­day, au­thor­i­ties said.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred with cen­tral Paris un­der se­cu­rity lock­down for a ninth con­sec­u­tive Satur­day of “yel­low-vest” protests. Large parts of the cap­i­tal were blocked off by riot po­lice, al­though the protests have re­duced in scale com­pared with Novem­ber.

“As fire­men were look­ing for a gas leak in the build­ing, a dra­matic ex­plo­sion took place,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said, adding that one of the fire­men had been buried un­der de­bris for sev­eral hours.

Cas­taner said on his Twit­ter feed that two fire­fight­ers had died and 10 peo­ple, in­clud­ing one other fire­fighter, had se­ri­ous in­juries. An­other 37 peo­ple had lighter in­juries, he said.

Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Josep Bor­rell wrote on his Twit­ter feed that a Span­ish woman had also died in the blast. French au­thor­i­ties did not im­me­di­ately con­firm the third death.

Span­ish news­pa­per El Con­fi­den­cial re­ported that the woman was a tourist vis­it­ing Paris with her hus­band, who was un­harmed.

Just hours af­ter the blast, thou­sands of yel­low vest protesters marched nois­ily but peace­fully through the Grands Boule­vards shop­ping dis­trict of north­ern Paris, just a few hun­dred me­ters (yards) from the scene of the ex­plo­sion.

In re­cent years, France has suf­fered a string of deadly Is­lamist mil­i­tant at­tacks in Paris, Nice, Mar­seille and else­where, but au­thor­i­ties quickly ruled out foul play.

“A this stage we can say it (the gas blast) is clearly an ac­ci­dent,” Paris pros­e­cu­tor Remi Heitz told re­porters.

A po­lice source said the ex­plo­sion tore apart a bak­ery on the rue Tre­vise and wit­nesses said the force of the blast shat­tered nearby store­fronts and rocked build­ings hun­dreds of me­ters away.

More than 200 fire­fight­ers joined the res­cue op­er­a­tion and two he­li­copters landed on the nearby Place de l’Opera to evac­u­ate vic­tims. Am­bu­lances strug­gled to ac­cess the blast area be­cause of po­lice bar­ri­ers set up to con­tain any vi­o­lence by yel­low vest protesters.

An eye­wit­ness at a ho­tel nearby said he saw flames en­velop the ground floor of 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,” said 38-year-old David Ban­gura.

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.”

(David Ban­gura/Reuters)

A FIRE BURNS from a gas ex­plo­sion yes­ter­day at a bak­ery shop in Paris.

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