Two firefighters, Spanish tourist killed in Paris gas leak blast

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Firefighters extinguish a fire after the explosion of a bakery on the corner of the streets Saint-Cecile and Rue de Trevise in central Paris on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (AFP)
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A fire engine is damaged in the middle of debris after the explosion of a central Paris bakery. (AFP)
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Firefighters evacuate a resident from an apartment after the explosion of a bakery in central Paris. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2019

Two firefighters, Spanish tourist killed in Paris gas leak blast

  • Around 200 firefighters were mobilised to battle the fire that broke out after the blast and evacuate victims and residents in the area
  • Cars were overturned by the blast and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street after the explosion gutted the lower part of the building

PARIS: A powerful gas explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday, killing two firefighters and a Spanish woman, injuring dozens of people and badly damaging nearby apartments, officials said.
Around 200 firefighters were mobilised to battle the fire that broke out after the blast and evacuate victims and residents in the area, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene.
The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest "yellow vest" anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.
Cars were overturned by the blast and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street after the explosion gutted the lower part of the building. Dozens of residents were treated by rescue workers on the street.
"I was sleeping and was woken up by the blast wave," Claire Sallavuard, who lives on the Rue de Trevise where the explosion occurred, told AFP. "All the windows in the apartment exploded, doors were blown off their hinges, I had to walk on the door to leave the room, all the kids were panicking, they couldn't get out of their room."
"Firefighters advised us to leave but the elevator shaft had been blown out, there was no railing, nothing, and there was too much smoke," she said.
Besides the two dead firefighters, 47 other people were injured in the blast, 10 of them seriously, the Paris prosecutor's office said.
A source in the Spanish foreign ministry said a woman who was holidaying with her husband in Paris died in hospital after the blast while another Spanish national was also injured.
Around 100 police officers blocked off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions including the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
Police also closed off streets in front of the Garnier Opera house as emergency services landed two helicopters in front of the historic building to evacuate victims.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9:00 am (0800 GMT) in a building that housed a bakery as well as a restaurant on the ground floor in the Ninth Arrondissement.
"It happened when there were people in the street, and firefighters inside," the interior minister said.
The shockwave was felt as far as four blocks away, Commander Eric Moulin of the Paris fire service said, adding that rescuers were still searching for other victims.
Firefighters had been responding to an alert of a gas leak at the site when the explosion occurred, Paris prosector Remy Heitz said at the scene.
"First there was a gas leak and the firefighters arrived, then there was an explosion that caused the fire," Heitz said.
Dozens of tourists, suitcases in hand, were evacuated from the many nearby hotels in the area, a popular weekend shopping destination for locals and visitors alike.
Other residents were in bathrobes or quickly dressing in the street as police helicopters circled overhead.
"We were sleeping when we heard the noise, it sounded like an earthquake," a teenager who lives on a nearby street told AFP.
"We came downstairs and we saw a building on fire," her brother said.
Many homes and buildings in Paris use gas for heating and cooking, though explosions due to leaks are relatively rare.


Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

Updated 45 min 58 sec ago

Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

  • Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes
HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some main roads and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities.

Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. None of the officers were injured, and six arrows were seized at the scene, police said.

Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes.

The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. “For staff who cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the circumstances,” a statement said.

The Education Bureau extended the suspension of classes for kindergarten to high school students until Monday. It ordered schools to remain open, though, to handle children whose parents need to send them to school.

At Polytechnic University, protesters shot an arrow at officers patrolling nearby, then threw flower pots from a height when other officers arrived. Police responded with tear gas, and protesters fired more arrows.

Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges onto roads below during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students to switch to online learning.

Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where students hurled more than 400 firebombs at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus.

Early Thursday they used chainsaws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening.

Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months.

A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light rail routes, the Transport Department announced.

“Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited services,” the department said.
Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city.

The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a “one nation, two systems” principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.