Paris bakery ex­plo­sion kills at least 3, in­jures dozens

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - WORLD - By An­gela Charl­ton and Sylvie Cor­bet

PARIS — A pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion ap­par­ently caused by a gas leak blew apart a Paris bakery Satur­day, killing three peo­ple and in­jur­ing dozens as it blasted out win­dows and over­turned nearby cars, au­thor­i­ties said.

Wit­nesses de­scribed the sound of the ex­plo­sion as over­whelm­ing. Fire­fight­ers pulled in­jured vic­tims from bro­ken win­dows and evac­u­ated res­i­dents and tourists as a fire raged and smoke bil­lowed over Rue de Tre­vise in the 9th ar­rondisse­ment of north-cen­tral Paris.

Charred de­bris and bro­ken glass cov­ered the pave­ment around the apart­ment build­ing hous­ing the bakery, which re­sem­bled a black­ened car­cass, and peo­ple were trapped in­side nearby build­ings.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner paid trib­ute to the courage of res­cuers, who saved the life of one fire­fighter who was buried un­der the rub­ble for 2½ hours.

The French In­te­rior Min­istry said two fire­fight­ers and a fe­male Span­ish tourist were killed by the blast and about 10 of the 47 wounded were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Paris prose­cu­tor Remy Heitz said the cause of the blast ap­peared to be an ac­ci­den­tal gas leak. He said Paris fire­fight­ers were al­ready at the scene to in­ves­ti­gate a sus­pected gas leak at the bakery when the ex­plo­sion hap­pened about 9 a.m.

Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo ex­tended a “mes­sage of af­fec­tion and sol­i­dar­ity” to the vic­tims. She said many res­i­dents and tourists had been evac­u­ated from neigh­bor­ing build­ings and ho­tels and Paris au­thor­i­ties were help­ing to pro­vide them tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tions.

Au­thor­i­ties said around 200 fire­fight­ers and po­lice were in­volved in the op­er­a­tion. A he­li­copter evac­u­ated the wounded. Sil­ver-hel­meted fire­fight­ers and red firetrucks filled the street and in­spected ad­join­ing court­yards.

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, one so pow­er­ful that he felt a whistling in his ears.

“I heard one big ex­plo­sion and then a lot of pres­sure came at me, a lot of black smoke and glass,” he said. “I had just enough time to get down and cover my­self and pro­tect my head.”

The ex­plo­sion came as the French cap­i­tal was on edge and un­der heavy se­cu­rity for yel­low vest protests Satur­day against eco­nomic in­equal­ity.

An­gela Charl­ton and Sylvie Cor­bet are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

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