At least 24 people injured in Paris explosion

Police say four people are in critical condition after the blast started a fire in the French capital.

French police secure the area, after several buildings went on fire following a gas explosion in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, France, June 21, 2023.
French police secure the area around an explosion and fire that burned several buildings in Paris's Latin Quarter on June 21, 2023 [Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters]

At least 24 people have been injured and two people are missing after an explosion started a fire in Paris, police say.

The fire on Wednesday caused two buildings to collapse, including one housing a fashion school, emergency services said.

According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, four of the injured are in a life-threatening condition.

The explosion and fire occurred near the Val-de-Grace military hospital in the 5th arrondissement, also known as the Latin Quarter, on the Left Bank of the Seine.

About 70 fire trucks and 230 firefighters battled the blaze, which was contained by the early evening.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said at the scene that emergency crews were searching the rubble for any other potential victims.

Smoke rises above rooftops following a gas explosion in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, France, June 21, 2023.
Smoke rises above Paris’s rooftops after an explosion in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, France, on June 21, 2023 [Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters]

The firefighters “prevented the spread of the fire to two adjoining buildings, which were seriously destabilised by the explosion” and “were evacuated”, Nunez added.

Florence Berthout, mayor of the arrondissement, said “the explosion was extremely violent” and described pieces of glass falling from buildings.

The cause of the blast was not immediately clear, but Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau said early indications were that the blast originated inside the building. Investigators would look into whether building conditions were in breach of regulations or if someone had caused an accident.

‘Shocked and shaken’

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said police were working to keep people away from the site.

“It is still a very dangerous situation,” Butler added. “You can see … some police officers talking to residents who are quite shocked and shaken.”

Butler described the neighbourhood as an “upscale” and “very busy” area that is also frequented by tourists.

“For some people, it was reminding them of when the Notre Dame was on fire a few years ago. We haven’t seen that sort of smoke rise above the capital for many years.”

In 2019, a gas leak caused an explosion that killed four people and injured 66 in the 9th arrondissement.

The shockwave blew out scores of nearby windows, and dozens of families were forced to evacuate their homes for months. Much of the street still remains off limits four years after the disaster.

The Paris city government has been charged with involuntary manslaughter over that blast, and legal wrangling over the exact cause continues.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies