A powerful blast caused by a gas leak at a Paris bakery Saturday killed at least four people and injured at least 47, sparking an all-out emergency response and evacuation of residents.
The explosion and fire blasted out the windows and even overturned cars, French authorities said. The incident occurred over Rue de Trevise in the upmarket 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris, not far from the shopping district that includes the famed headquarters of Galeries Lafayette.
France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner said four people were killed, including two firefighters. At least 47 people have also been injured, with 10 in critical condition.
“Unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious,” Castaner told the media. He added that “the situation is under control” and described his “shock” after seeing the damage.
Around 200 firefighters and police were involved in the emergency operation. A helicopter landed in the area to evacuate the wounded people.
The cause of the explosion appears to be an accidental gas leak, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said, but an investigation was opened to determine the exact cause of the explosion.
He noted that firefighters were already at the scene to check on the gas leak at the bakery before the explosion occurred.
The explosion caused debris and broken glass to cover the pavement. Some residents also described the loud blast, saying it scared them, fearing it was a terror attack.
An employee of a hotel opposite the bakery said he saw the firefighters entering the bakery about an hour before the blast.
“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,” the witness said. “And I had just enough time to get down and cover myself and protect my head.”
He added that the explosion left whistling in his ears. The hotel where he works was “destroyed” in the blast, he said.
The explosion occurred amid heavy police and emergency services presence in Paris due to the Yellow Vests protests, when protesters march on the capital every Saturday to show their dissatisfaction with the government.