Two firefighters killed as gas leak explosion rocks central Paris
PARIS, France (3rd UPDATE) –A powerful explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday, January 12, killing two firefighters, injuring dozens of people and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings, officials said.
Around 200 firefighters were mobilized to battle the fire that broke out after the blast and evacuate victims and residents in the area, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene.
The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest "yellow vest" anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.
"It happened when there were people in the street, and firefighters inside," Castaner said.
Around 100 police officers blocked off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions including the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
Police also closed off streets in front of the Garnier Opera house as emergency services landed two helicopters in front of the historic building to evacuate victims.
Besides the two dead firefighters, 47 people were injured in the blast, 10 of them seriously, the Paris prosecutor's office said.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9:00 am (0800 GMT) in building that housed a bakery as well as a restaurant on the ground floor in the Ninth Arrondissement.
The shockwave was felt as far as 4 blocks away, Commander Eric Moulin of the Paris fire service said, adding that rescuers were still searching for other victims.
"I was sleeping and woke up by the blast wave," Claire Sallavuard, who lives on the Rue de Trevise where the explosion occurred, told Agence France-Presse.
"All the windows in the apartment exploded, doors were blown off their hinges, I had to walk on the door to leave the room, all the kids were panicking, they couldn't get out of their room," she said.
"Firefighters advised us to leave but the elevator shaft had been blown out, there was no railing, nothing, and there was too much smoke," she added.
Rescuers eventually used a ladder to evacuate the family, who lived on the first floor.
'Like an earthquake'
Firefighters had been responding to an alert of a gas leak at the site when the explosion occurred, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said at the scene.
"First there was a gas leak and the firefighters arrived, then there was an explosion that caused the fire," Heitz said.
Cars were overturned by the blast and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street as dozens of residents were treated by rescue workers.
Dozens of tourists, suitcases in hand, were evacuated from the many nearby hotels in the area, a popular weekend shopping destination for locals and visitors alike.
Other residents were in bathrobes or quickly dressing in the street as police helicopters circled overhead.
"We were sleeping when we heard the noise, it sounded like an earthquake," a teenager who lives on a nearby street told AFP.
Many homes and buildings in Paris use gas for heating and cooking, though explosions due to leaks are relatively rare. – Rappler.com
We keep you informed because you matter
We tell you the stories that matter. We ask, we probe, we explain.
But as we strive to do all this and speak truth to power, we face constant threats to our independence.
Help us make a difference through free and fearless journalism. With your help, you enable us to keep providing you with our brand of compelling and investigative work.
Joining Rappler PLUS allows us to build communities of action with you. PLUS members will receive our editorial newsletters and industry reports, get to join exclusive online conversations with our award-winning journalists, and be part of our monthly events.
Make your move now. Join Rappler PLUS.