PARIS — An large explosion tore through a bakery in central Paris on Saturday morning, leaving smoke and flames and scattered debris in its wake and injuring several people, the authorities said.
The authorities said the blast was believed to have been tied to a gas leak.
The Paris police prefecture said on Twitter that a fire initially started in a shop on Rue de Trévise that was then hit by a “strong explosion.” About 200 firefighters battled the blaze, and photos on social media showed firefighters helping people down a ladder after the blast.
About 100 police officers were sent to the scene.
The number of injured was not yet immediately clear, but Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, told reporters on the site later on Saturday that the situation was “under control” but that the human toll could be “serious.”
The explosion came as Paris and other cities around France were bracing on Saturday for a ninth week of protests by the “Yellow Vests” movement, which had been marked by episodes of violence and vandalism of high-end stores. But there was no immediate indication that the explosion on Saturday had anything to do with the protests.
The Yellow Vests are protesting against the social and economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron, whom they perceive to be out of touch with their everyday needs. But the demonstrations have also morphed into wider discontent with the political and media elites.
Pictures on social media after the powerful explosion showed a blackened store front at the corner of Rue Trévise and Rue Sainte Sécile, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, with windows blown out, debris strewn around the street and fires still burning.
Other images showed damaged buildings and broken windows stretching for several blocks.
The explosion occurred on a residential street in an area of Paris that is also well known to tourists, with many hotels and attractions nearby, including the Grévin wax museum and the Folies Bergère music hall.
One person wrote on Twitter: “Woke up to the apartment building shaking as if I had never left California … not an earthquake, but an explosion on Rue de Trévise not even a mile from me.”
Another person wrote of hearing screams.
Sylvain Maillard, a lawmaker who represents the area, told the BFM TV news channel that the blast had been “accidental” and that there were “probably wounded.”
Residents told French television that firefighters had been responding to reports of a gas leak in the neighborhood and were ordering residents to turn off their gas supply and stay inside when the explosion occurred.
Many apartment buildings in Paris use gas for heating and other purposes, but deadly explosions because of leaks are rare. In 2016, an explosion caused by a gas leak in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris tore off the roof of an apartment building and wounded 17 people.