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Body in bakery rubble brings gas explosion death toll to four

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Destruction: Debris and car wreckage litters the street after the bakery explosion in central Paris. Photo: CARL LABROSSE/AFP/Getty Images

Destruction: Debris and car wreckage litters the street after the bakery explosion in central Paris. Photo: CARL LABROSSE/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Destruction: Debris and car wreckage litters the street after the bakery explosion in central Paris. Photo: CARL LABROSSE/AFP/Getty Images

Rescuers have found a woman's body under the rubble of a bakery in Paris that was blown apart by a powerful explosion, bringing the overall death toll to four.

The blast on Saturday morning in the Rue de Trevise in north-central Paris also injured dozens of people.

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Flowers for the dead firefighters outside their station in Paris. Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Flowers for the dead firefighters outside their station in Paris. Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Paris Fire Department spokesman Eric Moulin yesterday that nine people were still in critical condition from the explosion that devastated a Paris street. Up to 45 others were also injured but not as seriously.

He had said earlier that rescuers were searching for a missing woman living in the building where the bakery was located.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said the cause of the blast appeared to be accidental. He explained that firefighters had already arrived on the scene to investigate a suspected gas leak at the bakery when the explosion happened. Two firefighters were among those killed.

About 30 firefighters were at the site yesterday to search for other potential victims, amid a mountain of debris and wrecked cars.

Authorities said 12 neighbouring buildings that were damaged by the blast, apparently due to a gas leak, have been evacuated. Temporary accommodations were provided for about 40 residents while dozens of others have been housed by family and friends.

The city hall of the arrondissement was offering meals and collecting clothes yesterday to help evacuated people.

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell revealed that a Spanish woman was among the four who died in the blast.

The 'El Pais' newspaper reported the woman was a tourist staying in a hotel near the bakery.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner visited the scene and said: "Unfortunately the human toll is particularly serious".

He paid tribute to the courage of rescuers who notably saved the life of one firefighter who was buried under the rubble for two-and-a-half hours.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was also at the scene, extended a "message of affection and solidarity" to victims.

Mr Heitz said: "The judicial police have started investigating, the scientific police as well."

He added: "The origin of the explosion seems accidental. We are at the beginning of the investigation, everything will be done to establish the exact origin of the explosion as soon as possible."

Witnesses described the overwhelming sound of the blast and people trapped inside nearby buildings.

Charred debris and broken glass covered the pavement around the apartment building housing the bakery, which resembled a blackened carcass.

Authorities said around 200 firefighters and police were involved in the operation.

A helicopter landed in the area to evacuate the wounded. Silver-helmeted firefighters and red firetrucks filled the street and inspected adjoining courtyards.

Pedro Goncalves, an employee at the Hotel Mercure opposite the bakery, said he saw firefighters enter the bakery in the morning but he and his co-workers "thought maybe it's 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 one big explosion and then a lot of pressure came at me (and) a lot of black smoke and glass," he said. "And I had just enough time to get down and cover myself and protect my head."

The bakery is around the corner from the Folies-Bergere theatre and not far from the shopping district that includes the famed headquarters of Galeries Lafayette.

Irish Independent