Updated with the latest. A building in central Paris that houses an art and design school, which mainly welcomes international students, was partially destroyed in a violent explosion on Wednesday afternoon.
At least 24 people have been injured, four of them seriously, according to the latest figures released as of 7:10pm CET (10:10am PST). At least two people are missing.
Paris Police Chief Laurent Nunez told a news briefing that the explosion occurred at 277 avenue Saint-Jacques in the 5th arrondissement at 4:55 p.m. local time (7:55 a.m. Pacific time).
The address includes the American Academy of Paris.
According to its website, the private institution is a bilingual design school that offers courses in fashion, interior design, art, and creative writing. Most of its students are international, many from the United States
Witnesses told French news channel BFMTV that the blast caused the facade to collapse and was followed by a “ball of fire” inside the building.
Footage taken shortly after the blast showed the collapsed building enveloped in smoke and flames.
BFMMT said that local residents told its reporters that they smelled a strong smell of gas just before the explosion, indicating that it was caused by a gas leak.
There was no official confirmation whether this was the cause of the explosion or not.
About 200 firefighters were dispatched to the scene to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.
Nunez said the fire was under control but not completely extinguished. Local residents were asked to leave the area for fear of secondary explosions.
Attorney General Lori Bekoa said she had opened an investigation into the accident to determine whether “failure to follow regulations or recklessness” could have led to the accident.
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