Paris – Two people are missing after an explosion destroyed the Paris American Academy school building in Paris on Wednesday, French authorities said.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 37 people were injured in the explosion, four of them seriously, and the cause of the blast is still unknown. Firefighters said they would work throughout the night to search for victims.
“We are not sure if these people are missing,” Darmanin said. “So tonight we may find living bodies or people.”
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said the explosion occurred just before 5 p.m. The fire has been brought under control, he added. The blast took place at Paris Men’s Fashion Week, but it was not immediately known if any attendees were injured.
Photographs of the site show the 17th century listed building has been completely destroyed. The explosion was so powerful that it blew out the windows of neighboring apartments and set cars on fire, Darmanin said.
As many as 325 firefighters rushed to the scene and 200 police officers helped evacuate dozens of residents, he said. The minister reported that the public prosecutor of Paris has ordered an investigation.
American Academy of Paris Founded in 1965 by American musician Richard Roy, it offers courses in fashion, interior design, fine arts and creative writing to international students, according to the school’s website. American model Dorian Leigh Parker helped establish the fashion department, PAA president Peter Carman said on the site.
The six-level Pavillon du Val de Grace, where most classes are held, was recently renovated, the school said. Darmanin said there were no reported problems with the building.
“To the best of our knowledge, contrary to what has been reported in some areas, there was no warning when this explosion occurred,” he said. Eyewitnesses reported a strong smell of gas in the area.