World

Two dead in Paris bakery blast

By AAP Newswire

Two firefighters have been killed and dozens have been injured in a blast at a Paris bakery that was apparently caused by a gas leak.

The Paris prosecutor's office says two people died in Saturday morning's blast, not four as the French interior minister said earlier.

Ten people are in a critical condition and 37 others are less seriously injured, the prosecutor's office confirmed.

Speaking to reporters at the scene on Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castener 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, expressed affection and solidarity towards the victims.

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.

The massive blast gutted the ground floor of a building in central Paris's shopping district.

Authorities were already on high alert in the French capital for a ninth consecutive Saturday because of "yellow vest" protests, with large parts of the city centre blocked off by riot police.

A police source said the explosion tore apart the bakery, with the force of the blast shattering nearby storefronts and rocking buildings hundreds of metres away.

"The situation is now under control," Castaner said, adding that more than 200 firemen were involved in the rescue operation.

An eyewitness who was staying at a hotel nearby said he saw a huge fire erupt in the building blown out by the blast.

"There was broken glass everywhere, storefronts were blown out and windows were shattered up to the third and fourth floors," said 38-year-old David Bangura.

He said that as he approached the scene, a woman was crying for help from the first floor of a building, saying, "help us, help us, we have a child".

Two helicopters landed on the nearby Place de l'Opera to evacuate victims.

MJF