Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters were called to a building in the 5th arrondissement of Paris on June 21, 2023.
A fire gas explosion in the central area Paris At least 37 people were injured and hundreds of firefighters were on the scene Wednesday afternoon.
About 270 firefighters were sent to the scene near Rue Saint Jacques in the city’s fifth arrondissement and the fire was under control, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez told reporters.
Four people are in critical condition and authorities say rescuers are searching for at least two others who are believed to be missing in the rubble.
“Tonight we will find dead bodies, or we will find them alive,” French Interior Minister Gérald Dormanne said from the scene of the blast.
Investigators still don’t know how the gas explosion happened, adding: “No warning was sent before the incident.”
A Paris prosecutor investigating the incident said initial indications were that a gas explosion came from the building that houses the Paris American Academy, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.
Laure Beccuau, who visited the scene, said investigators will rely on the accounts of the injured in their investigation.
A portion of the building collapsed following the blast and fire, videos show. Smoke billowed from the wreckage earlier Wednesday as rescue workers tried to put out the fire.
Paris American Academy, a fashion and design school, describes itself on its website as “the first bilingual design school” in the French capital.
Kent State University in the US state of Ohio said all students at the Paris American Academy were safe and were being accounted for following the blast.
Following the blast, local residents were also prevented from returning to their homes in the surrounding streets by authorities.
Smoke billows over rooftops with the Pantheon in the background.
One woman, Anne, told a CNN producer at the scene that she was inside her flat about 500 meters (1,640 feet) away when the explosion occurred.
“It felt like an earthquake, the windows were banging against each other,” he said.
Another woman, who did not want to be named and lives on a neighboring avenue, told CNN her doors have been barricaded since the explosion.
Local Deputy Mayor Edward Siwell later explained in a tweet that the damage was caused by a gas explosion.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo visited the scene later Wednesday, writing in a tweet, “My thoughts go first to the victims and their loved ones.”
Authorities in Paris have opened an emergency department to deal with the aftermath of the blast.