Two firefighters and a Spanish woman have been killed after a huge blast at a bakery in France’s capital, Paris.
The emergency services were responding to a gas leak when “a dramatic explosion” occurred, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Forty-seven people were injured, 10 seriously, in the blast on rue de Trévise at around 09:00 (08:00 GMT).
It happened near the Paris Opera, a popular tourist area, and was felt several streets away.
In the immediate aftermath, overturned cars and debris from other shop fronts littered the street in front of the burning bakery as people stood around, looking stunned by the force of the explosion.
The Spanish woman, who was on holiday with her husband in Paris, died in hospital after the blast, while another Spanish national was also injured.
The Hubert bakery at 6, rue de Trévise was not due to be open at the time of the blast, Le Parisien newspaper reports.
A gas leak had been reported in the building and firefighters had been on their way to deal with it when the explosion occurred.
Helicopters landed on the nearby place de l’Opéra to evacuate the injured.
Some 150 people sought refuge in the city’s 9th district town hall after the blast, the deputy Paris mayor in charge of security, Colombe Brossel, told French radio.
A passing journalist, Emily Molli, described the vast extent of the damage.
One Paris counsellor has pointed out that the city’s gas network is in “a catastrophic state”.
How did residents react?
A resident named Killian was asleep when the explosion blew in his windows. Everybody in the building came downstairs, he said, and he could hear screaming.
The blast also destroyed a theatre, he told French news channel BFMTV.
“I was sleeping and woke up by the blast wave,” Claire Sallavuard told AFP.
“All the windows in the apartment exploded, doors were blown off their hinges, I had to walk on the door to leave the room, all the kids were panicking, they couldn’t get out of their room.”
The family used a ladder to leave the building from the first floor with the help of firefighters.
In the streets, dozens of tourists, suitcases in hand, were evacuated from the area’s many hotels, AFP reports
Paula Nagui, a receptionist at the nearby Diva Hotel, said there had been an “enormous blast” that shattered all the windows.
Anxious guests had received assurances that it was not a terror attack, she told Le Parisien.
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