A powerful gas explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday, killing two firefighters and a Spanish woman, officials said.
The blast also injured dozens of people and badly damaged nearby apartments before over 200 firefighters were mobilised to the scene.
The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.
Cars were overturned by the blast and glass and rubble was strewn across large swathes of the street after the explosion gutted the lower part of the building.
As well as the three dead, 47 people were injured in the blast, 10 of them seriously, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
A source in the Spanish foreign ministry said a woman who was holidaying with her husband in Paris died in hospital after the blast while another Spanish national was also injured.
Around 100 police officers blocked off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions including the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
Police also closed off streets in front of the Garnier Opera house as emergency services landed two helicopters in front of the historic building to evacuate victims.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9:00 am (0800 GMT) in a building that housed a bakery as well as a restaurant on the ground floor.
Firefighters had been responding to an alert of a gas leak at the site when the explosion occurred, Paris prosector Remy Heitz said at the scene.
“First there was a gas leak and the firefighters arrived, then there was an explosion that caused the fire,” Heitz said.