Two people were killed and at least 47 others were wounded when a suspected gas leak caused “a spectacular explosion” that rocked a building in central Paris on Saturday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
Two firefighters succumbed to their live-threatening injuries following the blast, Castaner confirmed in a Tweet message.
The minister corrected the death toll from four to two.
He added that 10 people, including one firefighter, were seriously wounded. At least 37 others had lighter injuries when firefighters were searching the building for more victims.
“The explosion is very spectacular. The people were in the street at the time of the explosion, the casualties will be heavy,” Castaner told reporters when he visited the site earlier on Saturday.
“The situation at the moment is under control. We are accompanying the wounded. And all our services are mobilized too,” he added.
Television images showed the capital’s shopping district turned to a devastating site. The huge blast blew out the entire ground floor of the building where the explosion was reported earlier in the day in a closed bakery on the Rue de Trevise in the 9th district of Paris.
Charred debris covered the pavement around the building with storefronts blown out and windows shattered up to the fouth floor.
Hundreds of meters away, shop windows were smashed, other buildings and parked vehicles were also damaged by the force of the blast.
More than 200 firefighters and 100 police officers have been deployed. Two helicopters also landed on the nearby Place de l’Opera to evacuate victims.
The Regional Directorate of Judicial Police opened an investigation into the explosion.
“We still need to determine the circumstances and cause of the explosion, but at this stage we can say it is clearly an accident, presumably a gas leak,” said Paris prosecutor Remi Heitz. Enditem