An intense explosion rocked a building located on the Left Bank of Paris on Wednesday, resulting in at least 16 individuals sustaining injuries. The Paris explosion triggered a fire, causing billowing smoke to rise above iconic city landmarks and necessitating the evacuation of nearby structures, as confirmed by the police. The exact cause of the explosion remains unknown at present.
According to a Paris police official, the facade of a building in the 5th arrondissement (district) collapsed, and emergency services are currently working to find out if there are any people still trapped inside. The explosion occurred in close proximity to the historic Val de Grace military hospital.
Laurent Nunez, the Chief of Paris police, informed reporters that 16 people had been injured, with seven of them in critical condition requiring immediate medical attention. Nunez added that although the fire had been contained, it had not been completely extinguished.
Florence Berthout, the mayor of the arrondissement, described the explosion as exceptionally forceful, noting that fragments of glass continued to fall from buildings.
While Nunez acknowledged that several individuals had sustained injuries, including some critical cases, he refrained from providing an exact count or specifying whether any were in life-threatening conditions.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has initiated an investigation into the incident, focusing on charges of aggravated involuntary injury, while also examining the possibility that the explosion resulted from a breach of safety regulations. Officials from the 5th arrondissement have blamed the explosion and subsequent fire on a gas leak.
According to the Paris police chief, the site of the explosion was a private institution called the Paris American Academy. Established in 1965, the academy specializes in providing education in fashion design, interior design, fine arts, and creative writing.
As firefighters battled the blaze, a lingering smell of smoke permeated the air, although the grey plume gradually dissipated. The neighbourhood was cordoned off, and a multitude of emergency personnel, police officers, and soldiers swarmed the area.
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Achille, a student who was present in a building approximately 100 meters away from the explosion, recounted his experience. He stated that he was sitting on a windowsill when the blast propelled him and others about 2 meters away from the window, leaving them filled with tremendous fear. Achille, whose last name was not provided, reported that they quickly descended from the building and witnessed the flames. He expressed gratitude for the support received from the police and the swift evacuation process.
Given its dense population of over 2 million residents and its historic and ageing infrastructure, Paris has unfortunately witnessed gas explosions in the past. In January 2019, a blast in the 9th district resulted in the loss of four lives and left dozens injured.