A powerful explosion destroyed a bakery in central Paris on Saturday morning, injuring several people and blowing out dozens of nearby windows after a suspected gas leak, police and AFP journalists. Around 200 firefighters were mobilised to battle the fire that broke out after the blast and rescue residents in neighbouring buildings, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene.Police closed off streets in front of Opera theatre as emergency services landed two helicopters in the street, apparently to evacuate victims. “The toll appears to be high, and severe,” Castaner said, adding that 100 police officers were blocking off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions like the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs. The blast occurred shortly after 9am (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 the family, who lived on the first floor. Police sources said firefighters had already been responding to an alert of a gas leak at the site when the explosion occurred.Published in Daily Times, January 13th 2019.