A powerful explosion and a fire apparently caused by a gas leak in a Paris bakery killed two firefighters and wounded 47 people on Saturday, according to the authorities. Firefighters snatched victims from the windows and evacuated the residents as the smoke swelled up Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of central-northern Paris.
The authorities claimed that 10 people were in critical condition and 37 others were injured less seriously in the explosion, which overturned the machines and blew windows.
In the immediate aftermath, cars and debris destroyed were scattered on the street in front of the bakery, housed in a condominium that looked like a blackened carcass. The people standing there appeared stunned by the force of the explosion, according to reports from BBC News.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said firefighters were on the scene before the explosion occurred to investigate an alleged gas leak. That was when the explosion happened.
He told the Associated Press that "the judicial police began to investigate, even the scientific police"
"The origin of the explosion seems accidental," he said. "We are in the beginning of the investigation, everything will be done to establish the exact origin of the explosion as soon as possible."
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the explosion and the people trapped in nearby buildings.
Pedro Goncalves, an employee at the Mercure Hotel in front of the bakery, said he saw firemen enter the bakery in the morning, but he and his collaborators "thought maybe it was a joke, a false alarm" and they're back at work. About an hour later, he said an explosion rocked the surrounding streets.
"In the middle of nowhere, I heard a big explosion and then a lot of pressure came to me (and) a lot of black and glass smoke," he said. "And I just had time to lower myself and cover myself and protect my head."
Goncalves said he "heard many things fall on me" and that he was hit by broken glass. He had some cuts on his head and blood stains on his sweater and shirt.
"Thank God I'm fine," he said, saying that the explosion was so powerful that he heard whistling in his ears later. Goncalves said he ran to the exit and then went to check out the hotel customers, adding that some of them had head injuries and were bleeding. He said the hotel was "destroyed" in the explosion.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was on the scene, said that many residents and tourists were evacuated from hotels and neighboring buildings.
The explosion occurred while about 80,000 police officers were on duty on Saturday, while protesters of the "yellow jersey" are destined to take to the streets for the ninth consecutive weekend to protest the government, according to reports from the BBC. It is not believed that the Paris explosion is connected to the protests.