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Two firefighters, Spanish tourist killed in bakery blast in Paris

Violetta Heise, DPA on

Published in News & Features

PARIS -- Two firefighters and a Spanish tourist were killed and dozens were injured in a major blast at a bakery in central Paris on Saturday morning, a French interior ministry spokeswoman said.

The death toll rose to three later Saturday, according to the French and Spanish governments, after earlier being mistakenly put at four.

French Interior Minister Christopher Castaner had admitted to the mistake after being corrected by police, a police spokeswoman said.

Ten people were seriously injured, while 37 received minor injuries, Castaner had also told broadcaster BFMTV.

The explosion took place around 9 a.m. on Rue de Trevise, not far from the Paris Opera, at the same time as the city was bracing for the ninth weekend of Yellow Vest protests.

The cause of the blast is still unclear, though authorities suspect a gas leak to be behind it. "At this point, we can say that it is apparently an accident," Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said on broadcaster France Info.

The fire department had been called because of a gas leak in the bakery, a police spokeswoman told dpa earlier Saturday.

Around 100 police officers and 200 firefighters were deployed to the scene, according to the interior minister.

Residents in neighboring buildings were evacuated using ladders. Security authorities are now checking to see whether surrounding buildings were damaged and therefore pose a risk, Castaner said.

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At the scene, the windows of nearly all the surrounding buildings are blown out, while cars on the street have broken windscreens. The remains of the bakery that once stood there can barely be discerned.

"We were sleeping, and we suddenly heard a noise," a young woman staying with a friend who lives on the street told dpa.

Elonara Romano said it was loud and they heard glass breaking, but neither of them realized how serious it was until a friend messaged them about the accident. Then they noticed that the windows of the flat were broken.

A resident of a nearby house told BFMTV: "I felt the foundations of my building shake for a second or two. I was wondering if there was an attack, I was a bit scared."

France is on high alert after a fatal shooting attack in Strasbourg last month.

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