Explosion Destroys Paris American Academy Design School In French Capital Injuring 37 People; Ohio’s Kent State Says Students Unharmed – Updated

UPDATED with latest. A building in central Paris housing an arts and design school, catering mainly to international students, was destroyed in a violent blast on Wednesday afternoon.

As of Thursday morning, 37 people were known to have been injured, with four of them in critical condition.

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Paris First Deputy Emmanuel Grégoire told a press briefing early Thursday that one missing person had been accounted for overnight in hospital.

One person remains missing and rescue services continue to search the site.

The blast rocked Paris’ famous Latin Quarter in the city’s fifth arrondissement at 4.55 pm local time (7.55 am PT), in a classified 17th building housing the Paris American Academy.

Footage shot shortly after the explosion showed the collapsed building enveloped in smoke and flames.

According to the Paris American Academy website, the private institution is a bilingual design school offering courses in fashion, interior design, arts and creative writing.  Most its students are international, with many hailing from the U.S.

Ohio’s Kent State University said on Wednesday that nine of its students who were attending a summer program at the school had been accounted for and were unharmed.

University President Todd Diacon said in a statement that the students had “left the building for an off-site activity” at the time of the explosion.

There has been no official explanation for cause of the blast.

People in the neighborhood told local media that they had smelt a strong gas odor just prior to the explosion, giving rise to the suggestion that it was caused by a gas leak.

This theory has not yet been confirmed by rescue services or Paris city hall officials.

Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau announced shortly after the blast that she had opened an “unintentional injury” investigation to explore whether “non-compliance with regulations or recklessness” could have led to the incident.

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