A powerful explosion tore through a bakery in central Paris early on Saturday, killing at least three people, including two firefighters, and leaving smoke, flames and scattered debris in its wake, the authorities said.
Police and city officials said the blast, which occurred on Rue de Trévise, was believed to have been caused by a gas leak.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said that 47 people had been injured by the explosion, 10 of them critically. Emergency medical workers used helicopters to help evacuate some of the injured, picking them on the square in front of the Paris Opera house and taking them to hospitals.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry said that a Spanish woman had also been killed in the blast, and that a Spanish couple were being treated in the hospital. Christophe Castaner, the French interior minister, said two Paris firefighters were among the dead.
Firefighters had been responding shortly after 8:30 a.m. to calls about a gas leak at No. 6 Rue de Trévise, at an intersection in the 9th arrondissement of the capital, and had asked residents to turn of their gas supply and stay inside.
But minutes later, a huge blast shattered windows, burned cars and startled residents who were just starting their day.
Matthieu Croissandeau, a French resident, was parking his scooter on a street nearby when he heard the explosion. The shock wave set off alarms throughout the neighborhood, he said, and he saw thick smoke billowing.
“As I walked down the street, windows were broken and I saw people come towards me who were very distraught, some of them wearing pajamas or underwear,” he said. “It was a real scene of desolation. A car was overturned by the blast, the facade of the building was destroyed, people at the windows were shouting.”
An emotional Mr. Castaner praised the firefighters, telling reporters that they had been able to save seven people, including one firefighter who had been trapped underneath rubble for more than two hours. About 200 firefighters battled the blaze and rescued people with ladders after the explosion.
Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, said that the blast had been “manifestly accidental,” telling reporters: “First there was a gas leak, then the arrival of the firefighters, followed by an explosion that caused the fire.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Aurelien Breeden