Death toll from Paris gas explosion rises to four

The powerful gas explosion in central Paris last Saturday gutted the lower part of the building, which housed a bakery and a restaurant. About 50 people were injured, nine of them seriously, including several tourists who were in the area to visit lo
The powerful gas explosion in central Paris last Saturday gutted the lower part of the building, which housed a bakery and a restaurant. About 50 people were injured, nine of them seriously, including several tourists who were in the area to visit local attractions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • The death toll from a powerful gas explosion in central Paris has risen to four after rescue workers found a woman's body in the rubble, investigators said. Two firefighters and a Spanish tourist were also killed in last Saturday morning's blast that injured dozens and badly damaged nearby apartments.

Rescue workers with sniffer dogs had earlier searched for a missing woman, who lived above the explosion site and who was believed to be in the rubble.

A source close to the investigation said the body could be that of the missing woman.

The blast gutted the lower part of the building, which housed a bakery and a restaurant, and also overturned cars, leaving glass and rubble strewn across large swathes of the street.

About 50 people were injured, nine of them seriously, including several foreign tourists who were in the area to visit local attractions such as the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.

A fire service spokesman said 40 firefighters were clearing the debris by hand on Sunday due to the dangerous conditions. "We will leave only when everything is cleared, to be certain there is no one else," he said, indicating that such an operation could last for about a week.

Given the extent of the damage, about 50 people were put up in temporary accommodation.

 

In a city that has been shaken by a string of terror attacks in recent years, the huge blast jangled nerves.

"I was in bed when it happened. I heard a muffled boom, it moved the building," said resident Sylvie, who lives close to Rue de Treviso where the explosion occurred. "I heard the sirens and burst into tears."

Others, such as Mr Philippe Benoliel, were out trying to repair some of the damage. He was attaching wooden panels to the front of his tourism business located on the same street. "When I arrived this morning, I found two windows blown off and glass shards everywhere. The explosion from 200m away caused all that," he said.

Local resident Soufiane, 28, was one of many people who came to lay flowers at the site. His bouquet had a note saying "For Laura", the Spanish tourist who died. "As soon as I heard the noise, I went out to see what was happening. I heard this Spanish woman calling for help," he said.

Her head was covered in blood and she was taken to a nearby hotel where two doctors, still in their pyjamas, tried to help her, he said. "When the ambulance took her away, she was still alive."

The blast was believed to be accidental, but Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz remained cautious. "At this stage, we do not exclude any hypothesis," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2019, with the headline 'Death toll from Paris gas explosion rises to four'. Print Edition | Subscribe