Paris, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — France's interior minister says that four people have been killed, including two firefighters, and 47 have been injured in the blast at a bakery that was apparently caused by a gas leak in central Paris.
Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene "unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious."
He said 10 people are in critical condition and 37 others less seriously injured.
He paid homage to the courage of rescuers who 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.
A Paris fire department spokesman says that 36 people, including 12 in critical condition, have been injured in the blast at a bakery that was apparently caused by a gas leak.
Paris fire department spokesman Eric Moulin told reporters at the scene that five people were in life-threatening condition, including two firefighters.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said "at this stage we can say it seems from accidental origin, this would be a gas leak." He said that Paris firefighters were already at the scene for a suspected gas leak on Saturday morning when the explosion happened. Investigations are ongoing to determine the exact cause of the blast.
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.
A witness says he saw Paris firefighters enter a 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.
Pedro Goncalves, an employee at the Hotel Mercure opposite the bakery, said that about an hour later 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.
Paris police say several people have been injured in an explosion and fire at a bakery believed caused by a gas leak.
A Paris police spokeswoman said firefighters are currently at the scene of the blast Saturday morning at the bakery on Rue Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris. She said several injuries have been reported to police but no deaths. The spokeswoman, who wasn't authorized to be publicly named, provided no further details.
French television showed emergency vehicles surrounding the area.
The explosion came amid heavy security in Paris and around France for yellow vest protests expected later Saturday.