Paris blast: At least 37 hurt, sniffer dogs pick up scent under rubble

Paris blast: At least 37 hurt, sniffer dogs pick up scent under rubble
View taken 22 November 2007 of the Panthéon building located in the Latin Quarter in Paris. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 June 2023
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Paris blast: At least 37 hurt, sniffer dogs pick up scent under rubble

Paris blast: At least 37 hurt, sniffer dogs pick up scent under rubble
  • Paris prosecutor said it was too early to say what caused the blast
  • Local deputy mayor referred to a gas explosion in a Twitter post

PARIS: A blast ripped through a street near Paris’ historic Latin Quarter on Wednesday and rescuers were searching for two missing people feared buried under the rubble of a building that partially collapsed in the explosion.

The explosion tore through Rue Saint-Jacques, which runs from the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral to the Sorbonne University, in the late afternoon, injuring at least 37 people, four of whom were fighting for their lives in hospital.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that sniffer dogs had picked up a scent under the mound of masonry left strewn across Rue Saint-Jacques.

“It is possible tonight that we will find bodies or perhaps survivors,” Darmanin told reporters at the scene of the blast.

The blast destroyed the facade of a building housing the Paris American Academy design school popular with foreign students.

Witnesses described a deafening explosion and a giant fireball that rose several stories high.

Soldiers helped secure a safety cordon around the scene.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was too early to say what caused the blast.

But the local deputy mayor, Edouard Civel, referred to a gas explosion in a Twitter post and witnesses told BFM TV there had been a strong smell of gas moments before the blast.

“The shop shook violently, it felt like bomb blast,” said Rahman Oliur who manages a food shop a few doors down the street from the American Academy.

Bar worker Khal Ilsey said he heard a “huge explosion” before running out and seeing a violent blaze at the end of the street.

RUBBLE AND FIRE

The blast occurred at 4:55 p.m. (1455 GMT), just as workers were heading home. The area is frequented by tourists and foreign students in the early summer but there was no immediate indication that any foreigners were among the victims.

Several nearby building were evacuated. More than two hours after the explosion, first responders were still treating residents for shock. One woman fainted in the street.

Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau said early indications were that the blast originated inside the collapsed building. Investigators would look into whether building conditions were in breach of regulations or if an individual had acted without due care, he added.

More than 300 firefighters were involved in bringing the blazes under control.

Rue Saint-Jacques runs through the Latin Quarter — famed as the home to many expatriate and French writers, musicians and artists over the years — to the Val de Grace military hospital and is a few blocks from the popular Jardin du Luxembourg.

“I was at home writing ... I thought it was a bomb,” said art historian Monique Mosser, adding that many of the windows in her building had been blown out by the blast’s shockwave.

“A neighbor knocked on the door and told me that the fire brigade were asking us to evacuate as quickly as possible. I grabbed my laptop, my phone. I didn’t even think to take get my medication.”

In January 2019, a gas leak caused an explosion that killed 4 people and injured 66 in the 9th arrondissement. In April that year, a fire broke out in the Notre-Dame Cathedral, destroying much of the roof and causing other damage before it was extinguished.


Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports

Updated 14 sec ago
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Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports

Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports
The hospital said earlier on Thursday Fico underwent further follow-up examinations
Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen and was taken to a hospital

BRATISLAVA: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was released from a hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica, where he had been recovering from an assassination attempt, and taken to his apartment in Bratislava on Thursday, Slovak media reported.
The hospital and the government office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The hospital said earlier on Thursday Fico underwent further follow-up examinations, which confirmed the positive development of his health condition, and that he had started rehabilitation.
An attacker hit Fico with four bullets at short range when the prime minister greeted supporters at a government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova on May 15.
Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen and was taken to a hospital in Banska Bystrica in serious condition. He immediately underwent a more than five hour operation and another one two days later.
The attacker, identified as 71-year old Juraj C. was detained on the spot and charged with attempted premeditated murder.

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says
Updated 11 min 20 sec ago
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Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says
  • Organizers had said in April that President Vladimir Putin would not be invited to the events in France
  • The commemorations will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government

PARIS: Russia will not be invited to events marking the 80th anniversary of the Second World War’s D-Day landings next week given its war of aggression against Ukraine, the French presidency said on Thursday.
Organizers had said in April that President Vladimir Putin would not be invited to the events in France, but that some Russian representatives would be welcome in recognition of the country’s war-time sacrifice.
Prior to France’s announcement on Thursday two diplomatic sources told Reuters that the Ukraine war and unease among some allies about Moscow’s presence had led Paris to reverse its initial thinking.
The commemorations will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.
Briefing reporters ahead of next Thursday’s anniversary, a French presidency official confirmed Russia’s absence and that Zelensky had been invited given his country’s “just fight” in the war against Russia.
“Russia has not been invited. The conditions for its participation are not there given the war of aggression launched in 2022, which has only increased these last weeks,” the official said.
Russia is advancing modestly but steadily in eastern Ukraine as two years of war saps Ukraine’s ammunition and manpower.
Earlier this month, three other EU diplomats told Reuters that a number of states from the bloc had said they would be uneasy if Russia attended.
More than 150,000 Allied troops launched the air, sea and land D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, an operation that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany.
The Soviet Union lost more than 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War and Moscow marks the victory with a massive annual military parade on Red Square.
Russians officials have attended D-Day ceremonies in the past. During the 70th-anniversary events in 2014, Putin along with the then-leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine set up the so-called Normandy format — a contact group aimed at resolving the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which then focused on the Donbas and Crimea regions.
“When there’s a person, there’s a problem. When there’s no person, there’s no problem,” said one of the diplomatic sources using a quote of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s, to describe the decision to not invite Russia.


Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move

Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move
Updated 30 May 2024
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Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move

Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move
  • Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision, which requires Slovenian parliamentary approval, rewarded Hamas for murder and rape

JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign minister denounced the Slovenian government’s decision on Thursday to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision, which requires Slovenian parliamentary approval, rewarded Hamas for murder and rape, a reference to the Palestinian Islamist group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war in Gaza.
In a statement, Katz said the move also strengthened Israel’s arch-enemy Iran and damaged “the close friendship between the Slovenian and Israeli people.” He added: “I hope the Slovenian parliament rejects this recommendation.”


UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners

UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners
Updated 30 May 2024
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UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners

UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners
  • “We call on the Hong Kong authorities to end NSL prosecutions,” junior foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said
  • Britain has become increasingly critical of Beijing’s influence on its former colony

LONDON: The British government on Thursday urged Hong Kong to halt prosecutions under its National Security Law and release 14 pro-democracy campaigners found guilty of subversion.
“We call on the Hong Kong authorities to end NSL prosecutions and release all individuals charged under it,” junior foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a statement.
Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 but has become increasingly critical of Beijing’s influence on its former colony, accusing it of breaking its promise to protect democratic freedoms.
Relations have soured between the two capitals, including after Hong Kongers were given residency and a route to citizenship in the UK due to the crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
Trevelyan said Thursday’s verdict was “a clear demonstration of the way that the Hong Kong authorities have used the Beijing-imposed National Security Law to stifle opposition and criminalize political dissent.”
The 14 people found guilty, who were among 47 charged, were “guilty of nothing more than seeking to exercise their right to freedom of speech, of assembly and of political participation,” she said.
“Today’s verdict will only further tarnish Hong Kong’s international reputation. It sends a message that Hong Kongers can no longer safely and meaningfully participate in peaceful political debate.”


Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat

Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat
Updated 30 May 2024
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Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat

Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat
  • India’s capital Delhi recorded first heat-related death on Wednesday as sun scorches
  • Extreme temperatures spark fires in several regions of country such as Jammu and Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Animals collapsed, people jumped on water tankers with buckets amid shortages and government employees changed their work hours as blistering summer heat kept its grip on north India on Thursday.

Although Thursday’s readings were marginally lower in Delhi than the previous day when one area recorded an all-time high of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22 Fahrenheit), the region still saw temperatures touching 47 C (116.6 F).

Delhi, which has a population of 20 million, recorded its first heat-related death on Wednesday, with a 40-year-old laborer dying of heatstroke, local media reported. Authorities said they are investigating if the 52.9 C reading in the Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday was caused by a sensor error at the local weather station.

Television images showed people chasing water tankers or climbing on top of them in parts of the city to fill containers amidst an acute water shortage that the government blames on low levels in the Yamuna River — Delhi’s primary source of water.

Along the river’s banks, women in shanties endured stifling conditions in their homes as their cooking stoves aggravated the sweltering weather.

“The heat is worse this year. We work like this every day so we get into the habit,” said Seema, 19, who cooks for her family twice a day.

In the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, a policeman used CPR to revive a monkey that he said had fainted and fallen from a tree because of the heat, pumping its chest for 45 minutes, local media reported, and Delhi also saw cases of heatstroke among birds.

As more people chose to order food and groceries by home delivery instead of venturing out in the heat, delivery personnel have been spending more time on their scooters and motorbikes, their employers said.

“Order frequency has been higher during the afternoon when people are avoiding stepping out,” said Ateef Shaikh, a delivery fleet manager at a Swiggy delivery app store in Mumbai.

Zomato and its grocery delivery business, Blinkit, have taken additional measures to help delivery workers, including providing refreshments and comfortable clothing, their spokespersons said.

Blinkit is installing air coolers in the waiting areas of all its stores, the spokesperson added.

The extreme temperatures have also sparked more fires in several parts of the country, including in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, where authorities are using drones to monitor forest fires.

The country, which is nearing the end of multi-phase national elections, is not alone in experiencing unusually high temperatures. Billions across Asia are grappling with the heat and in neighboring Pakistan the temperature crossed 52 C (125.6 F)this week.

Scientists say this trend has been worsened by human-driven climate change. India, the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has long held that, as a developing nation, it should not be forced to cut its energy-related emissions but has set a target of becoming a net-zero emitter by 2070.