A large gas explosion erupted in Paris’s city center on Wednesday, June 21st, injuring at least 37 people and prompting a swift response from over 250 firefighters.
The explosion occurred near Rue Saint Jacques in the 5th arrondissement, according to Paris Police Chief Laurent Nunez. He confirmed that the fire was contained swiftly by the responding teams.
The explosion site is situated south of the Latin Quarter, a popular tourist destination and home to a sizable student community on Paris’s Left Bank.
Four individuals are critically wounded, and rescue workers are currently searching for at least two persons believed to be buried under the debris.
Eyewitness accounts reported a strong smell of gas before the blast, and a fireball approximately 20 to 30 meters high was visible immediately following the explosion.
The blast originated in a building housing the Paris American Academy, according to initial findings from Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau, who is overseeing the investigation.
A section of the building was seen collapsing in videos that surfaced after the blast, with smoke billowing from the debris as emergency workers tried to control the situation.
Speaking from the site, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned that there could be fatalities among the missing. He said, “There was no alarm sent out before the incident.”
The deputy mayor, Édouard Civel, confirmed via Twitter that a gas explosion was the cause of the incident.
The Paris American Academy, which describes itself as the “first bilingual design school” in Paris, confirmed that all its students from Kent State University in Ohio have been accounted for safely. Local residents in nearby streets were temporarily barred from returning to their homes by authorities after the explosion.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo visited the site, expressing her thoughts and condolences for the victims and their families via Twitter. The city authorities have established an emergency unit to manage the explosion’s aftermath in response to the incident.