PARIS, June 21 (Xinhua) — A powerful explosion at a building on Paris’ Left Bank on Wednesday injured 24 people and sparked a fire that sent smoke billowing over city monuments and prompting the evacuation of surrounding buildings. The cause of the explosion is not yet known.
Paris police officials said emergency services were trying to determine if anyone was still inside after the outer wall of a building in the fifth arrondissement collapsed. The explosion happened near the historic Grace Valley Military Hospital.
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said the building where the explosion took place was a private school, the American Academy of Paris, founded in 1965, offering courses in fashion design, interior design, fine art and creative writing.
The fire has been brought under control but not yet extinguished. About 270 firefighters participated in fighting the fire, and 70 ambulances arrived on the scene.
A Paris police official told The Associated Press that a total of 24 people were injured, four seriously and 20 less seriously. The official said the injuries were mainly caused by people being knocked down by the blast.
Officials in the Fifth District attributed the explosion and fire to a gas leak.
District Mayor Florence Belsot said the “explosion was extremely violent” and that shards of glass were still falling from the building.
Paris prosecutors said an investigation had been opened into serious involuntary injury, which would look into whether the explosion stemmed from an alleged violation of safety rules.
Paris prosecutor Raul Bekuo said investigators would seek to “determine whether there was a breach of the rules or personal recklessness that led to the explosion”.
Paris police chief Nunez said firefighters prevented the blaze from igniting two adjacent buildings, which were “seriously unstable” and evacuated due to the blast. Witnesses and the police chief said the explosion knocked out several windows in the area.
By Wednesday night, smoke was no longer noticeable inside the building. Sirens were still sounding as ambulances passed through the neighbourhood, but residents were free to move around again on the rue Saint-Jacques street, which had been cordoned off earlier.
A student at the private school said the building he was in was about 100 meters from the blast site.
“I was sitting on the windowsill and we were 2 meters away from the window, and there was a small explosion (explosion) and a huge fear,” Achille, who did not give his last name, told BFM television.
“We came down (from the building) and saw the flames,” he said. “The police gave us a lot of support and we evacuated very quickly.”
The urban area of Paris is densely populated and its infrastructure has a long history, sometimes even aging. Gas explosions are no strangers to Paris. In January 2019, an explosion in the Ninth District killed four people and injured dozens more. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the body of content may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)