Rescue workers comb through debris in central Paris on Thursday, a day after a powerful explosion destroyed a building in the Left Bank and injured about 40 people, many of them critically.
Paris authorities said one person was still unidentified after the explosion, which rocked the French capital on Wednesday night and destroyed most of the building, located on Rue Saint-Jacques, in the Fifth Arrondissement, leaving a pile of burnt wood. beams and broken stones.
Official information about the victims’ identities was not immediately available. But the building is home to a small fashion and arts school known as the Paris American Academy, and on its Facebook page, the school said its president, Peter Carman, was hospitalized in Paris after the explosion. and is in critical condition and under anesthesia.
The medical condition of the three professors is not yet known, but most students appear to be safe, the school said.
The building also hosts the headquarters of the General Secretariat for Catholic Education, an institution that promotes Roman Catholic education in France.
The explosion started a fire that hundreds of firefighters quickly brought under control. Most of the injuries were minor, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said Thursday that six people were still in critical condition.
François Braun, the French health minister, told the BFMTV news channel that some victims suffered blunt-force trauma after they were thrown by the explosion, while others were injured by the flames.
“The worst victims have the most severe burns,” said Mr. Brown.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the explosion, whose origin is unclear. Foul play is not a leading theory, but authorities have not confirmed suspicions that a gas leak was responsible.
Many apartments in Paris use gas for heating and other purposes, and although fatal explosions from leaks are rare, they are not unheard of.
In 2016, an explosion caused by a gas leak in the Sixth Arrondissement tore off the roof of an apartment building and injured 17 people.
Three years later, a gas explosion destroyed a bakery in the Ninth Arrondissement. The explosion killed four people, including two firefighters, and injured several others, raising questions about the safety of the French capital’s gas infrastructure and prompting a protracted investigation to determine the exact cause. to leak.
Court-ordered expert reports in 2019 and 2020 faulted the Paris city government and the building’s property management company for failing to properly maintain the building and the sidewalk in front. Those reports said a gas pipe broke after the ground in front of the building began to sink, creating a dangerous gas pocket.
The city government and the property management company of that building were both charged with manslaughter, but the case is ongoing, and it is not clear if they will face charges. Last year, the city requested a new report from a different group of experts, who have not yet released their findings.
Jean-Pierre Lecoq, the mayor of the nearby Sixth Arrondissement, told Le Figaro on Wednesday that the gas network in Paris is “fragile” and very different, alternating between newly renovated sections and aging ones, broken
Different authorities also manage maintenance – street pipes are managed by the city, for example, while the interior of a building is usually managed by property management – increasing uncertainty about the overall state of the network.
Under the rain on Rue Saint-Jacques on Thursday, security forces set up a perimeter around the site of the blast, shocking Parisians, with the initial noise and chaos bringing back memories of the deadly attack. -terrorist attack that hit the city in 2015.
Some people who live in some neighboring apartments are still unable to return after being evacuated as a precaution.
Florence Berthout, the mayor of the Fifth Arrondissement, told BFMTV that three children were among the few injured but the 12 students who were supposed to be at the site left that afternoon to visit an exhibit with their professor. .
The Paris American Academy is a small school founded in 1965 for students seeking a career in the arts or fashion. It describes itself as “the first bilingual design school in the French capital, located in the Paris Latin Quarter.”
Nine academic students from Kent State University, in Ohio, and were in Paris for a month of fashion classes. All students are safe and will return to the United States a few days early, the university said in a statement.
“We are grateful and relieved to know that our students at Kent State are safe and accounted for,” said Todd Diacon, the university’s president. “This incident happened later in the day and the students left the building for an off-site activity. Our thoughts are with the other people who were injured in the explosion.”
Other French cities have also been hit by deadly gas-related explosions. In April, eight people died in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille after a powerful explosion destroyed a residential building.