Dozens injured in Paris bakery blast that overturned cars and blasted out windows

/ AP

Two firefighters were killed and 47 people were injured in a powerful explosion and fire apparently caused by a gas leak at a Paris bakery Saturday, according to authorities.

Firefighters pulled injured victims from windows and evacuated residents as smoke billowed over Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris.

Authorities said 10 people were in critical condition and 37 others were less seriously injured in the explosion, which overturned cars and blasted out windows.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene "unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious." He paid homage to the courage of rescuers who notably saved the life of one firefighter who was buried under the rubble for two and a half hours.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was also at the scene, extended a "message of affection and solidarity" to the victims. She said many residents and tourists have been evacuated from neighboring buildings and hotels. Paris authorities will help provide temporary accommodation, the mayor said.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that the cause appears to be an accidental gas leak. He said that Paris firefighters were already at the scene to investigate a suspected gas leak at the bakery when the explosion happened.

Firemen work at the site of an explosion in a bakery shop in the 9th District in Paris, France, January 12, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

He told The Associated Press 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 people trapped inside nearby buildings. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.

Pedro Goncalves, an employee at the Hotel Mercure opposite the bakery, said he saw firefighters enter the bakery in the morning but he and his co-workers "thought maybe it's a joke, a false alarm" and they went back to work. About an hour later, he said a blast rocked the surrounding streets.

"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," he said. "And I had just enough time to get down and cover myself and protect my head."

Goncalves said he "felt a lot of things fall on me" and that he was struck by shattered glass. He had a few cuts on his head, and spots of blood on his sweater and undershirt.

"Thank god I'm OK," he said, saying that the blast was so powerful that he heard whistling in his ears in the aftermath. Goncalves said that he ran for the exit and then went to check on the hotel's clients, adding that some of them had head injuries and were bleeding. He said that the hotel was "destroyed" in the blast.

First published on January 12, 2019

© 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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