A violent explosion has rocked the centre of Paris, destroying part of a building and sending smoke rising over the French capital. The cause of the explosion was unclear but witnesses suggested a gas leak may have been the cause. Residents living near the site of the blast in the 6th arrondissement were evacuated as firefighters battled the ensuing blaze.
Kem Phetsomphou said he felt the explosion inside the Tour Montparnasse, formerly France’s tallest skyscraper, which overlooks the district.
Photos of the scene showed firefighters scaling ladders to fight a blaze on the upper floors of a historic apartment block, with wood, debris and shattered glass littering the street.
Emergency services had been called to a fire in a ground floor apartment on Rue de Berite before the blast at around 12.20pm local time (11.20am BST), Le Parisien reported.
"Firefighters were there for an hour-and-a-half trying to extinguish a fire on the ground floor, when a huge explosion shook the whole neighbourhood," a resident told the newspaper.
"It's terrible, I saw several firefighters taken away on stretchers."
Police sources told local media five people sustained minor injuries in the blast, which damaged several floors and part of a roof near the famous Ferrandi cookery school.
The institution was temporarily evacuated as a precaution. Paris remains on high alert following last week's terror attacks in neighbouring Belgium and a separate plot uncovered to attack the French capital.
The explosion initially sparked fears of another bombing in the city, where 130 people were massacred in November.
"Paris is burning," one Twitter user wrote after photographing smoke from the fire. An employee at the Ferrandi school told local media: "People were scared, they thought it was a bomb."
There was no immediate indication of links to terrorism.
Source: The Independent