Fa­tal gas blast, ‘yel­low vest’ protests rock Paris

The Star Late Edition - - WORLD -

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


The scene of a gas leak ex­plo­sion in Paris on Sat­ur­day. | African News Agency (ANA)

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