PARIS: A powerful explosion tore through a building in central Paris yesterday, killing two firefighters, injuring dozens of people and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings, officials said.
Around 200 firefighters were mobilised 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. —Agencies