Two firefighters have died after a powerful explosion at a bakery in central Paris on Saturday morning.
Firefighters were already at the scene in the Rue de Trevise to inspect a suspected gas leak when the explosion happened. The leak is believed to have caused the deadly blast.
A further 47 people have been injured, 10 critically, according to France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner, who said: “Unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious.”
Mr Castaner had earlier told reporters that four people had died, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said only the two firefighters had died.
One firefighter was saved by his colleagues after being buried under the rubble for two-and-a-half hours.
The explosion overturned cars and scattered debris across the street in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris.
Pedro Goncalves was working in the hotel opposite the bakery when the explosion happened. He told ITV News he had seen firefighters in the area an hour before the blast.
Mr Goncalves, who was injured by flying glass from the explosion, said he took cover before going out into the street, where he said “everything was destroyed” and “people were screaming”.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that the cause appears to be an accidental gas leak.
He said that “the judicial police have started investigating, the scientific police as well. The origin of the explosion seems accidental. We are at the beginning of the investigation, everything will be made to establish the exact origin of the explosion as soon as possible.”
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast and said they heard screams coming from apartments above the bakery.
Firefighters pulled injured victims out of windows and evacuated residents.
Debris from a burned car and broken glass littered the pavement after the explosion.
Circumstances unclear. pic.twitter.com/E7O8lV2CDm
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) January 12, 2019
Around 200 firefighters were involved in the operation.
The building is around the corner from the Folies-Bergere theatre and not far from the shopping district that includes the famed headquarters of Galeries Lafayette.
The explosion came amid heavy security in Paris and around France for the ninth successive weekend of yellow vest protests.
#UPDATE A powerful explosion tore through a building housing a bakery and restaurant in central Paris early on Saturday, killing two firefighters, injuring at least 47 people and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings, officials said https://t.co/sStOOTu9nU pic.twitter.com/3lKKhrXRnu
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 12, 2019