Two dead, dozens injured in Paris bakery gas explosion

Firefighters work at the scene of a gas leak explosion in Paris, France, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. Paris police say several people have been injured in an explosion and fire at a bakery believed caused by a gas leak. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
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PARIS (AP) — The Paris prosecutor's office says that two firefighters have been killed in the bakery blast and has corrected the overall figure given earlier by France's interior minister.

The prosecutor's office said the only two dead are the firefighters; 10 other people are in critical condition and 37 are less seriously injured.

Earlier, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene that a total of four people, including two firefighters, were killed. Castaner later corrected himself in a tweet.

French investigators say the powerful blast was likely caused by a gas leak.

Firefighters tend to a wounded person near the site of a gas leak explosion in Paris, France, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

He said that Paris firefighters were already at the scene to investigate a suspected gas leak at the bakery when the explosion happened.

An investigation was opened to determine the exact cause of the blast, he said.

Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast and people trapped inside nearby buildings. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said "the situation is under control." After visiting the scene, he described his "shock" at seeing the damage, and said around 200 firefighters and police were involved in the operation.

A helicopter landed in the area to evacuate the wounded. Silver-helmeted firefighters and red firetrucks filled the street and inspected adjoining courtyards. A vehicle from gas company GRDF was stationed nearby.

Pedro Goncalves, an employee at the Hotel Mercure opposite the bakery, said he saw firefighters enter the bakery in the morning but he and his co-workers "thought maybe it's a joke, a false alarm" and they went back to work. About an hour later, he said a blast rocked the surrounding streets.

"In the middle of nothing, I heard one big explosion and then a lot of pressure came at me (and) a lot of black smoke and glass," he said. "And I had just enough time to get down and cover myself and protect my head."

Goncalves said he "felt a lot of things fall on me" and that he was struck by shattered glass. He had a few cuts on his head, and spots of blood on his sweater and undershirt.

"Thank god I'm OK," he said, saying that the blast was so powerful that he heard whistling in his ears in the aftermath. Goncalves said that he ran for the exit and then went to check on the hotel's clients, adding that some of them had head injuries and were bleeding. He said that the hotel was "destroyed" in the blast.

Another witness told The Associated Press that she was awakened by the blast, and feared it was another terrorist attack.

The bakery is around the corner from the Folies-Bergere theater and not far from the shopping district that includes the famed headquarters of Galeries Lafayette.

The explosion came as the French capital is on edge and under heavy security for yellow vest protests around the country.

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