France yellow vest demonstrations during Nov.-Dec. 2018
France yellow vest demonstrations during Nov.-Dec. 2018

A powerful explosion in central Paris on Saturday killed three and injured dozens of others while around 8,000 participated the “yellow vest” protests in the capital city, both pressing the government to take concrete actions promptly.

A Spanish female tourist and two firefighters were killed in the explosion that occurred at around 9:00 a.m. (0800 GMT) in a building with a bakery and a restaurant on the Rue de Trevise in the 9th district of Paris.

The Spanish national was seriously wounded and died in the afternoon. Two firefighters, aged 27 and 28 respectively, 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 “heros.”

In addition, 47 others were injured, including 10 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 fouth floor shattered and parked vehicles nearby damaged.

Parsi Mayor Anne Hidalgo extended a “message of affection and solidarity” to the victims of the explosion, which the local authorities believed was caused by a gas leak. An investigation has been under way, according to the Regional Directorate of Judicial Police.

The mayor said that Paris authorities were mobilized to help the evacuated residents and tourists with temporary accommodations.

Gas is commonly used in Paris for heating and cooking but gas-related explosions are rare in the city. The Le Parisien newspaper quoted Paris counselor Alexandre Vesperini as saying that the city’s gas network “aged a lot” and “is poorly signposted.”

Not far from the blast site, thousands of protesters in yellow vest marched on the streets on Saturday. Local reports said the number of the protestors was around 8,000, much more than 2,000 recorded in the previous demonstration on Jan. 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 cross 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 L’Arc de Triomphe and the Place de L’Etoile where first clashes between police and protesters broke out at around 1430 GMT, after the protesters tried to break through security cordons.

Anti-riot officers responded with tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse the crowd that threw projectiles at them. Up to 102 people were reportedly arrested for carrying objects that could be used as weapons, according to the Interior Ministry.

With more than 84,000 people demonstrating nationwide, this Saturday marked the ninth weekend of “yellow vest” demonstration after over 280,000 French people took to the streets across France on Nov. 17. to protest against fuel price hikes planned and later gave up by the government.

President Macron is to launch a national debate on Jan. 15 on the internet as well as in town halls, focusing on taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship, mainly to reply to what the “yellow vest” protesters are demanding. Enditem

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