Two firefighters dead, 47 injured in powerful gas explosion, fire at Paris bakery
- Police say the incident blasted out windows and overturned cars, while witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast and people trapped inside nearby buildings
France’s interior minister says that two firefighters have been killed, and 47 have been injured in the blast at a bakery that was apparently caused by a gas leak in central Paris.
Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene “unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious.”
He said 10 people are in critical condition and 37 others less seriously injured.
Earlier, Castaner told reporters at the scene that a total of four people, including two firefighters, were killed. He later corrected himself in a tweet.
Firefighters pulled injured victims out of windows and evacuated residents as smoke billowed over Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said the cause 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.
An investigation was opened to determine the exact cause of the blast, he said.
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast and people trapped inside nearby buildings. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the flat building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.
Castaner said “the situation is under control”. After visiting the scene, he described his “shock” at seeing the damage, and 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 colleagues “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. “And I had just enough time to get down and cover myself and protect my head.”
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 jumper and undershirt.
“Thank god I’m OK,” he said, saying that the blast was so powerful that he heard whistling in his ears in the aftermath. Goncalves said that he ran for the exit and then went to check on the hotel’s clients, adding that some of them had head injuries and were bleeding. He said that the hotel was “destroyed” in the blast.
Another witness said she was awakened by the blast, and feared it was another terrorist attack.
The bakery is around the corner from the Folies-Bergere theatre and not far from the shopping district that includes the famed headquarters of Galeries Lafayette.
The explosion came as the French capital is on edge and under heavy security for yellow vest protests around the country.