Fatal gas blast, ‘yellow vest’ protests rock Paris
A POWERFUL explosion in central Paris on Saturday killed three people and injured dozens of others while around 8 000 people participated in the “yellow vest” protests in the capital city, both pressing the government to take concrete action promptly.
A Spanish female tourist and two firefighters were killed in the explosion that occurred at about 9am local time in a building with a bakery and a restaurant on the Rue de Trevise in the 9th district of Paris.
The Spaniard was seriously wounded and died in the afternoon. Two firefighters, aged 27 and 28, were killed by the explosion as “they were looking for a gas leak in the building”, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
The two young firefighters were hailed by French President Emmanuel Macron as “heroes”.
In addition, 47 others were injured, 10 of them seriously.
“It happened when there were people in the street and firefighters inside,” Castaner said.
The force of the blast was so powerful that storefronts were blown out, windows up to the fourth floor shattered and parked vehicles nearby damaged. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo extended a “message of affection and solidarity” to the victims of the explosion, which authorities believed was caused by a gas leak.
An investigation is under way, according to the Regional Directorate of Judicial Police.
The mayor said that Paris authorities had been mobilised to help the evacuated residents and tourists with temporary accommodation. Gas is commonly used in Paris for heating and cooking.
Not far from the blast site, thousands of protesters in yellow vests marched on the streets on Saturday. Local reports said the number of protestors was about 8000, much more than the 2 000 recorded in the previous demonstration on January 5.
The fresh “yellow vest” protests started peacefully in the beginning as the French government had taken heavy security measures beforehand, including closing some bridges across the Seine River and protecting parliament building and the Elysee Presidential Palace with police barriers. However, tension flared hours later.
Tear gas clouds rose into the air above the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de L’Etoile, where the first clashes between police and protesters broke out after the protesters tried to break through security cordons.
Anti-riot officers responded with tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Up to 102 people were reportedly arrested for carrying objects that could be used as weapons, according to the Interior Ministry. | Xinhua