BLAST. A month after the terrible explosion in rue Saint-Jacques in Paris, the toll is growing. A third person has died. An investigation is still in progress and the track of a gas leak is privileged.

[Updated July 21, 2023 6:35 PM] Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris was the scene of a tragedy last June 21. A violent explosion in the fifth arrondissement of the capital shook the streets, injuring around fifty people. Among the victims, a woman, in a state of absolute emergency since the tragedy, fought for her survival, but unfortunately succumbed to her injuries a month after the incident, reports franceinfo, according to information from the Paris prosecutor’s office, this Friday, July 21. As soon as rescuers managed to access the rubble, six days after the explosion, a first body was found on June 27, buried under the debris of the collapsed building. A second person subsequently lost his life on the night of July 6-7, bringing the death toll to three. To this day, one injured remains in a state of absolute emergency, struggling with the pain and suffering caused by this tragedy.

Faced with the gravity of the situation, an in-depth investigation was carried out in order to understand the reasons for this deadly explosion and the collapse of the building. The investigations were entrusted to an investigating judge on July 3, as part of a judicial investigation opened for “manslaughter” and “involuntary injuries of more and less than three months, by manifestly deliberate violation of a obligation of safety or prudence provided for by law or regulation”. It is essential to determine the responsibilities in this tragedy so that justice is done to the victims and their families.

At the beginning of July, the situation was all the more trying for nearly sixty families who were still deprived of access to their housing on rue Saint-Jacques. While the origin of the explosion is still unknown, the question of a possible gas leak has been raised, raising legitimate questions among the population. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has also declared: “If the origin of the explosion remains to be elucidated, the question of an origin linked to the gas has been the subject of legitimate questions from the population”. Faced with this tragedy and the questions raised, Anne Hidalgo announced on July 5 the establishment of a “transpartisan mission” responsible for studying in detail “the terms of execution of the gas concession in Paris entrusted to GRDF”. This measure aims to ensure greater security within the city and to prevent possible similar disasters in the future.

“There is nothing to determine the origin of the disaster at this stage.” It is too early to say that a gas-related accident led to the violent explosion in the capital, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. It is still reasonable to consider this track, which seems to be favored by the investigators. Several witnesses and victims of the scene said they smelled a strong smell of gas a few minutes before the explosion when another described a “ball of fire” having burst at the time of the explosion. Details that may correspond to a gas accident. “The type of damage and the violence of the explosion is reminiscent of an accumulation of gas in a confined place” abounded the scientist specializing in natural gas and professor at Paris Dauphine University, Anna Creti, on France 2 on June 22 .

If during the investigation the gas proves to be responsible for the explosion, it will be necessary to specify the origin of the leak because “a problem on the network is not the same thing as a domestic accident, which depends the dilapidated state of the facilities, the lack of maintenance or negligence”, underlines the specialist. It should be noted that according to several testimonies, in particular that of a merchant in the district to Franceinfo, “renovations of the gas columns had been made” during the last six months in the sector. To limit the risk of new explosions, the gas network supplying this Parisian district was cut by the GRDF company. A total of 700 homes were without gas on Wednesday evening and during the day on Thursday.

The explosion in Paris claimed “fifty victims” according to the latest report communicated by the Paris prosecutor’s office on Thursday, June 22. A total of 58 people were injured in this explosion, some of whom were then in absolute emergency, and dozens of families are still homeless. According to franceinfo, one person currently remains hospitalized in a state of absolute emergency. Three others died.

The other victims of the explosion presented burns and lighter traumatological injuries. Some suffer from hearing or auricular problems related to the blast of the explosion. Many of them were not in the building at the time of the explosion, but nearby and are collateral victims. Also among the victims are those shocked and/or traumatized by the tragedy. A medico-psychological unit has been set up at the town hall of the 5th arrondissement to take care of these people.

It is impossible for the inhabitants of the buildings destroyed or affected by the explosion to return to their homes immediately. A hundred people have been rehoused in hotels, party rooms or even senior residences thanks to the system put in place by the town hall of the 5th arrondissement of Paris. Others, on the other hand, have not found a relocation solution, yet the places will not be accessible for several days. The inhabitants of about fifteen buildings are concerned. And if the police headquarters indicates that the reintegration of the victims into their homes will be gradual, it is not able to “give precise timing on their reintegration”, since the gas and electricity services “have yet to carry out checks “. Some people may have to wait a month before returning home.

The reintegration of housing also depends on the risk of collapse. Friday, June 23, the operations of the firefighters and the military were suspended because of these risks and can only resume after “the intervention of specialists to consolidate the building”.

The explosion took place at 4:55 p.m. on Wednesday June 21, 2023, in rue Saint-Jacques, at place Alphonse-Laveran, located in the 5th arrondissement of the capital. The explosion is said to have taken place in the building housing the Paris American Academy, a bilingual design school located at 277, rue Saint-Jacques, near Val-de-Grâce.

The explosion “immediately led to a violent fire”, confirmed the Paris police chief, Laurent Nuñez. But the rapid intervention of firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to two other buildings. The buildings were still “weakened”. Before being contained, around 6:30 p.m. on June 21, the fire however had time to spread to buildings neighboring the one where the explosion took place, according to statements by the Prime Minister. 270 firefighters and 70 vehicles were mobilized on site to evacuate and secure the scene.