THREE KILLED, DOZENS IN­JURED IN PARIS EX­PLO­SION

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By An­gela Charl­ton and Sylvie Cor­bet

Of­fi­cials say the cause ap­pears to be an ac­ci­den­tal gas leak.

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

Wit­nesses de­scribed the sound of the ex­plo­sion as deaf­en­ing. Fire­fight­ers pulled in­jured vic­tims out 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 homage 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 at the scene to in­ves­ti­gate a sus­pected gas leak at the bak­ery when the ex­plo­sion hap­pened about 9 a.m.

Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Josep Bor­rell tweeted that “I deeply re­gret the death of three peo­ple af­ter the ex­plo­sion in cen­tral Paris, in­clud­ing a Span­ish woman.”

He shared con­do­lences to her rel­a­tives and “wishes for a quick re­cov­ery to the other in­jured Spa­niard.”

The Span­ish news­pa­per El Pais re­ported the woman was a tourist stay­ing in a ho­tel near the bak­ery, which is around the cor­ner from the Folies-berg­ere theater and not far from the Paris shop­ping dis­trict that in­cludes the famed head­quar­ters of Ga­leries Lafayette.

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 co­work­ers “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.”

Gon­calves, who was struck by shat­tered glass, had cuts on his head and spots of blood on his sweater and un­der­shirt. He ran for the exit and then went back to check on the ho­tel’s clients, adding that some of them had head in­juries and were bleed­ing. He said the ho­tel was “de­stroyed” in the blast. “Thank God I’m OK,” he said. An­other wit­ness told The As­so­ci­ated Press that she was awak­ened by the blast and feared it was an­other ter­ror­ist attack.

The ex­plo­sion came as the French cap­i­tal was on edge and un­der heavy se­cu­rity for yel­low vest protests Satur­day against eco­nomic in­equal­ity. Au­thor­i­ties said 32,000 protesters took to the streets around the coun­try.

Carl Labrosse, Afp/getty Images

De­bris and wrecked cars lit­ter the street as fire­fight­ers work to douse flames Satur­day in Paris. A pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion caused by a gas leak killed three peo­ple and in­jured dozens.

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