Dozens injured by a gas explosion in a building in central Paris

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A powerful gas explosion damaged a building on Paris’s Left Bank on Wednesday, injuring more than two dozen people and sparking a massive fire, authorities said.

There were a total of 37 injured, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told French national broadcaster BFM TV. Four people were in “absolute emergency” and 33 were “relatively injured”.

Two people are still missing and the debris of the damaged building is being combed through, Darmanin said. There were 320 firefighters and 200 police officers at the scene.

“We still don’t know the origin of the explosion,” Darmanin said.

Police and a national government minister quickly urged people to avoid the area.

Smoke rises from the rubble of a building in Paris after an apparent gas explosion

Smoke rises from the rubble of a building in Paris after an apparent gas explosion on June 21, 2023.


Fire officials did not immediately confirm the district mayor’s statement that the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but witnesses reported smelling gas in the area before the explosion.

Witnesses told BFM and other outlets that the explosion had severely damaged a building housing the language school of the American Academy of Paris. BFM said it was unclear whether the initial blast had hit the academy or a neighboring building. Officials told CBS News that the explosion had “weakened” neighboring buildings.

“Since it was a Wednesday afternoon, the children were not in class, which probably prevented more casualties,” Darmanin told BFM.

About 20 families who lived in the building or in two neighboring buildings will be relocated, officials told Le Parisien, a French newspaper.

A gas explosion causes a fire in the center of Paris

French police secure the area after several buildings caught fire following a gas explosion in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, June 21, 2023.


French media said several nearby buildings caught fire after the explosion. Footage from the scene showed firefighters appeared to have the blaze under control.

The Paris prosecutor’s office and local services have mobilized victim support associations, officials said.

Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau told Agence France-Presse that a legal investigation is underway into the explosion.

“He is now being investigated, as part of the legal investigation that has been opened for the following charges: unintentional injury with the aggravation of deliberately endangering the lives of other people,” Beccuau said. “I want to emphasize that this position was chosen because it seemed to us the most appropriate based on the evidence available at the time. There is nothing to prevent this classification from evolving, although we have initial elements that lead us to confirm that this explosion originated in the building.”

The US State Department was not aware of any US citizens injured or killed in the blast, a State Department spokesman said.

The American Embassy in France issued a security alert advising US citizens to avoid the area.

Speaking at an annual music festival in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron asked for a moment to think about “those who were injured” in the blast and the families of the victims.

“I want to say a word for all the victims, the families, who are living in anguish and difficulty at a time when the toll is not stabilizing,” he said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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