“I thought it was a bombardment”: at least four people were seriously injured on Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Paris where a fire broke out after an explosion in a building that collapsed.
According to a still provisional report, 25 other people were injured more lightly and two inhabitants are actively sought in the rubble of this building on the Ve arrondissement, a wealthy district of the capital which notably houses the Pantheon.
Firefighters initially reported the collapse of two buildings. But according to police sources, only one building collapsed after being the prey of a fire whose origin remains unknown.
The 270 firefighters dispatched “prevented the spread of the fire to two adjoining buildings which were seriously destabilized by the explosion” and “were evacuated”, specified the prefect of police, Laurent Nuñez, adding that the fire had was circumscribed at the end of the day.
Several witnesses, interviewed by AFP, said they heard a “big explosion” around 2:50 p.m. GMT in a large part of the district.
“I thought it was a bombardment. It echoed through the apartment. I had 10 seconds of great concern, many people were at the windows, ”testified a resident who wishes to remain anonymous.
The collapsed building, located on the long artery of rue Saint-Jacques, near a former military hospital, notably housed a private fashion school, the Paris American Academy.
Several witnesses and residents, interviewed by AFP, said they smelled gas and heard a “big explosion”.
“It made a very strong boom. I fell from my meeting chair, like others,” said an official of the General Secretariat of Catholic Education, whose building is adjoining.
“It was preceded by a power outage, a man from our home wanted to go out to see, and noticed a strong smell of gas outside,” he added.
The “first elements” […] lead us to confirm that this explosion started from the building, ”said Paris public prosecutor Laure Beccuau at the scene. A judicial investigation for “involuntary injuries” has been opened.
According to the mayor of Ve arrondissement, Florence Berthout, the noise of the “completely enormous” explosion spread “in part of the arrondissement”. Windows exploded more than 400 meters from the building, AFP noted.
Alexis, 23, a neighbor, describes “smoke, debris too and leaves (which) were flying”.
“We didn’t know if we were going out in the street if something was going to happen, we didn’t know if it was terrorist. The building opposite caught fire, lots of windows shattered,” he added.
Youssef, whose sister lives on the ground floor of a nearby building, says that “she was taking a nap and there was a loud explosion, she thought it was an attack”. “She didn’t understand anything. Things from his apartment have fallen, there are stones in the yard,” he added.
A security perimeter has been installed, noted an AFP journalist, but residents are allowed to circulate.
The last major disaster of this type in the capital dates back to January 12, 2019.
That day, a strong explosion caused by a gas leak blew up the rue de Trévise, in the IXe district of Paris, killing four people including two firefighters, injuring 66 others and leaving some 400 victims.