A powerful explosion has taken place in central Paris which has destroyed a bakery on Saturday morning, injuring 12 people, five in critical condition, and blowing out dozens of nearby windows after a suspected gas leak, AFP reported citing a police source.
Around 200 firefighters were mobilised to put out the fire that broke out after the blast and to rescue residents in neighbouring buildings, interior minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene.
Police blocked streets in front of the Opera Theatre as emergency services landed two helicopters in the street, apparently to evacuate victims.
Castaner said that 100 police officers were blocking off several streets in the area, which is home to restaurants and tourist attractions like the Musée Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
The blast occurred shortly after 9am CET (0800 GMT), and was heard by residents and workers several blocks away.
"I was sleeping and woke 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," she said.
Rescuers eventually used a ladder to evacuate a family, who lived on the first floor.
Firefighters had already been responding to an alert of a gas leak at the site when the explosion occurred, according to police sources.
Cars were overturned by the blast and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street, as fire trucks and police continued to race toward the scene more than an hour later.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe also arrived on the scene to survey the damage.