Three dead in Parisian bak­ery ex­plo­sion

The Herald on Sunday - - THE WORLD -

TWO fire­fight­ers and a Span­ish woman have been killed and 47 in­jured in an ex­plo­sion at a bak­ery that was ap­par­ently caused by a gas leak in cen­tral Paris.

Fire­fight­ers pulled in­jured vic­tims from win­dows and evac­u­ated res­i­dents as smoke bil­lowed over Rue de Tre­vise in the 9th ar­rondisse­ment of north-cen­tral Paris.

The Paris prose­cu­tor’s of­fice said that two fire­fight­ers had been killed in the bak­ery blast, cor­rect­ing the over­all fig­ure of four dead given ear­lier by France’s in­te­rior min­is­ter.

Span­ish for­eign min­is­ter Josep Bor­rell re­vealed that a Span­ish woman was also killed in the blast.

The El Pais news­pa­per re­ported the woman was a tourist stay­ing in a ho­tel near the bak­ery.

Au­thor­i­ties said 10 peo­ple were in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and 37 oth­ers less se­ri­ously in­jured.

In­te­rior min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner told re­porters at the scene “un­for­tu­nately the hu­man toll is par­tic­u­larly se­ri­ous”.

He paid tribute to the courage of res­cuers who no­tably saved the life of one fire­fighter who was buried un­der the rub­ble for two-and-a-half hours.

Paris mayor Anne Hi­dalgo, who was also at the scene, ex­tended a “mes­sage of af­fec­tion and sol­i­dar­ity” to the vic­tims.

She said many res­i­dents and tourists had been evac­u­ated from neigh­bour­ing build­ings and ho­tels.

Paris au­thor­i­ties are help­ing pro­vide tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, the mayor said.

Paris prose­cu­tor Remy Heitz said that the cause ap­peared to be an acci- den­tal gas leak. He said that Paris fire­fight­ers were al­ready at the scene to in­ves­ti­gate a sus­pected gas leak at the bak­ery when the ex­plo­sion hap­pened.

He told re­porters that “the ju­di­cial po­lice have started in­ves­ti­gat­ing, the sci­en­tific po­lice as well”.

He added: “The ori­gin of the ex­plo­sion seems ac­ci­den­tal. We are at the be­gin­ning of the i nves­ti­ga­tion ev­ery­thing will be made to es­tab­lish the ex­act ori­gin of the ex­plo­sion as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Wit­nesses de­scribed the over­whelm­ing sound of the blast and peo­ple trapped in­side nearby build- ings. Charred de­bris and bro­ken glass cov­ered the pave­ment around the apart­ment build­ing hous­ing the bak­ery, which re­sem­bled a black­ened car­cass.

Au­thor­i­ties said around 200 fire­fight­ers and po­lice were in­volved in the op­er­a­tion.

A he­li­copter landed in the area to evac­u­ate the wounded. Sil­ver-hel­meted fire­fight­ers and red fire trucks filled the street and in­spected ad­join­ing court­yards. A ve­hi­cle from gas com­pany GRDF was sta­tioned nearby.

Pe­dro Gon­calves, an em­ployee at the Ho­tel Mer­cure op­po­site the bak­ery, said he saw fire­fight­ers en­ter the bak­ery in the morn­ing but he and his co-work­ers “thought maybe it’s a joke, a false alarm” and they went back to work. About an hour later, he said a blast rocked the sur­round­ing streets.

“In the mid­dle of noth­ing, I heard one big ex­plo­sion and then a lot of pres­sure came at me (and) a lot of black smoke and glass,” he said.

Gon­calves said he “felt a lot of things fall on me” and that he was struck by shat­tered glass.

He had a few cuts on his head, and spots of blood on his sweater and shirt.

Au­thor­i­ties at the scene said three peo­ple had been killed by the ex­plo­sion, ten were in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and 37 oth­ers were less se­ri­ously in­jured

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