PARIS – The French authorities said that two firefighters were killed and 47 people were injured in a powerful explosion and fire apparently caused by a gas leak at a Paris bakery Saturday that blew out windows and wrangles cars.
Firefighters pulled injured victims from windows and evacuated residents as smoke directed over Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of northern central Paris.
The Paris Prosecutor's Office said that two firefighters have been killed in the baker's blast, which corrects the overall figure of four dead previously given by the French Interior Minister.
Authorities said 10 people were in critical condition and 37 others less seriously injured.
Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner told journalists on the spot "Unfortunately, the human layer is particularly serious." He praised the courage of rescuers who mainly saved the lives of a firefighter who was buried under the ruins for two and a half hours.
Paris Mayo Anne Hidalgo, who was also on site, extended a "message of love and solidarity" to the victims.
She said that many residents and tourists have been evacuated from neighboring buildings and hotels. The parish authorities will help provide temporary accommodation, said the mayor.
The Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said the cause seems to be an accidental gas leak. He said Paris firefighters were already in place to investigate a suspected gas leak at the bakery when the explosion happened.
He told the Associated Press that "the judicial police have begun to investigate, the scientific police too. The origin of the explosion seems unintentional. We are at the beginning of the investigation everything will be done to determine the exact origin of the explosion as soon as possible. "
Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the explosion and people caught in nearby buildings. Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment that houses the bakery, which resembled a carved carcass.
The authorities said that about 200 firefighters and police were involved in the operation.
A helicopter landed in the area to evacuate wounded. Silver helmet firefighters and red fire trucks filled the street and inspected adjacent farms. A vehicle from the gas company GRDF was stationed nearby.
Pedro Goncalves, a member of the Hotel Mercure opposite the bakery, said he saw firefighters come into the bakery in the morning but he and his co-workers "thought it might be 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 a big explosion and then a lot of pressure came on me (and) very black smoke and glass" he said. "And I only had enough time to go down and cover me and protect my head."
Goncalves said he "felt very much at me" and that he was struck by broken glass. He had some cuts on his head and stains of blood on his shirt and undershirt.
"Thank God, I'm OK," he said, saying that the blast was so powerful that he heard whistling in the ears of the effects. Goncalves said he ran for the exit and then went to check on hotel customers and added that some of them had head injuries and bleed. He said the hotel was "destroyed" in the explosion.
Another witness told the AP that she was awakened by the blast and feared that it was another terrorist attack.
The bakery is located around the corner from the Folies-Bergere Theater and not far from the shopping district which includes Galeries Lafayette's famous headquarters.
The explosion came as the French capital lies on the edge and under heavy security for yellow west projects around the country.