Two dead as gas explosion rips apart French homes

Firemen at work near the collapsed section of the building in Reims. Picture: AFP/Getty
Firemen at work near the collapsed section of the building in Reims. Picture: AFP/Getty
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A PROBABLE gas explosion ripped off the side of a five-storey residential building in France’s Champagne country yesterday, killing at least two people and injuring at least ten others.

Yesterday teams continued to search for survivors.

More than 100 rescue workers, firefighters, sniffer-dog squads and bomb and gas experts were deployed to the gutted building in a subsidised housing complex in the city of Reims, east of Paris, officials said. Pictures showed heaps of debris spilling out of the building on to a grassy esplanade below, with two helmeted people perched on a crane for a look inside.

Reims mayor Adeline Hazan told France’s BFM television that “a very powerful explosion” had taken place, blowing out windows of nearby buildings. She said the blast had all the signs of a gas explosion but said that only a thorough investigation would determine the exact cause.

“The explosion of a residential building in Reims is a terrible thing,” the office of French president François Hollande said in a statement, conveying his condolences to the victims’ relatives. It said two people had been killed and ten injured.

Michel Bernard, the top government official in Reims, said that one person was seriously injured. He said the building dated to the 1960s, and an official investigation was under way to determine the cause. About ten of the 40 or so apartments in the building were affected and a search for possible survivors under the rubble was under way, he said.

A gas explosion in a flat in nearby Witry-les-Reims in early April left four people from the same family dead.