Four bodies including a child found in Paris apartment block blast

Police with sniffer dogs also found two residents alive under debris and they were then freed by firefighters

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed and up to four others, including several children, were feared buried in the remains of a four-storey apartment block that collapsed following an explosion in a Paris suburb.

Four people were killed and up to four others, including several children, were feared buried in the remains of a four-storey apartment block that collapsed following an explosion in a Paris suburb.

The bodies of an eight-year-old child, a teenager and two women were found in  the 1950s building in Rosny-sous-Bois. 

Twelve people were pulled from the wreckage by firefighters, but four others who lived in the building had not been accounted for  by last night.

However, a police spokesman said there was no certainty that all of them were present at the time of the explosion. Neighbours had dashed to help the residents after the blast yesterday morning. They pulled several people out before the police and fire services arrived.

Police with sniffer dogs also found two residents alive under debris and they were then freed by firefighters. The rescue workers carefully removed masonry and timber piece by piece in the hope of finding more survivors.

 

“It will take us between 24 and 48 hours to remove all the rubble,” said a fire service colonel, BernardTourneur. “But we have strong hopes of finding other  people still living.” Last night, police said three of the building’s 24 residents who were originally feared to have been buried were not present at the time of the explosion.

A gas leak is believed to  have caused the blast, although this has not yet been confirmed. Work was said to have been carried out on the gas main in the street outside the block last week.

The explosion also severely damaged a bar adjoining the apartment block, as well as shops and other properties.

Local officials said the four-storey building was  well maintained and had not been the subject of complaints by tenants.

One woman told reporters she feared her son’s friend and his family, who had returned from Saint-Malo on the Breton coast on Saturday night, were killed. “They lived on the second floor,” she said. “There is no hope for them.”

A neighbour, Ghislaine Poletto, 55, who was first on the scene, spoke of her shock at pulling a child out. “He was protected by a mattress and a large block of concrete above his head, she said.

“They saved his life. I can’t stop thinking of his little  arm and leg sticking out of  the rubble.”

parisblast2.jpgThe Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, later visited the scene of devastation and confirmed the blast “was probably caused by a gas leak”.

He added: “The nature  of the blast damage strongly suggests that is what  happened.”

He also confirmed residents from the remaining two-thirds of the building had been given alternative accommodation.

Other officials also said a gas leak was so far the main lead into a possible criminal investigation for manslaughter.

A fire commander, Gabriel Plus, said: “There had been gas and electricity improvement works going on at this location.”

Speaking from La Rochelle at a Socialist Party conference, the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, started his speech by sending out a “message of solidarity” to the victims. The blast happened on the day many people return from holiday before the new school year starts on Wednesday.

The prefect – who is a  senior national government official – for the Seine-Saint-Denis département, Philippe Galli, said: “On this weekend above all, it is impossible to be sure how many people were in  the building.” 

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