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Two firefighters dead nearly 50 people injured in central Paris gas blast

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Explosion at central Paris Bakery (AFP Thomas Samson)

Two firefighters died and nearly 50 people  were injured in a massive gas explosion that gutted the ground floor of a building in a central Paris shopping district on Saturday, authorities said.

The accident occurred with Paris under security lockdown for a ninth consecutive Saturday of “yellow vest” protests, with large parts of the French capital blocked off by riot police.

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“As firemen were looking for a gas leak in the building, a dramatic explosion took place,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said, adding that one of the firemen had been buried under debris for several hours.

Castaner said on his Twitter feed that two firefighters had died, and that 10 people, including one firefighter, had serious injuries. Another 37 people had lighter injuries, he said. Earlier he had told reporters that two civilians had also died.
Just hours after the blast, thousands of yellow vest protesters marched noisily but peacefully through the Grands Boulevards shopping district of northern Paris, just a few hundred yards from the scene of the explosion.

In recent years, France has suffered a string of deadly Islamist militant attacks in Paris, Nice, Marseille and elsewhere but authorities quickly ruled out foul play.

“A this stage we can say it (the gas blast) is clearly an accident,” Paris prosecutor Remi Heitz told reporters.

A police source said the explosion tore apart a bakery on the rue Trevise and witnesses said the force of the blast shattered nearby storefronts and rocked buildings hundreds of meters away.

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More than 200 firefighters joined the rescue operation and two helicopters landed on the nearby Place de l’Opera to evacuate victims. Ambulances struggled to access the blast area because of police barriers set up to contain any violence by yellow vest protesters.

An eyewitness at a hotel nearby said he saw flames envelop the ground floor of the building blown out by the blast.

“There was broken glass everywhere, storefronts were blown out and windows were shattered up to the third and fourth floors,” said 38-year-old David Bangura.

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He said that as he approached the scene, a woman was crying for help from the first floor of a building: “Help us, help us, we have a child”.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Caroline Paillez, Emmanuel Jarry and Benoit Tessier; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Ros Russell

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LISTEN: Mourners sing ‘Amazing Grace’ outside the Supreme Court to celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Heartwarming videos were shared on social media on Friday night showing the spontaneous gathering at the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The large crowd, with many people wearing masks, sang the hymn "Amazing Grace."

Here are some of the videos of the scene:

A moving moments as dozens join in to sing “Amazing Grace” on the steps of the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/NGZyZi4YR4

— Mike Balsamo (@MikeBalsamo1) September 19, 2020

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2020 Election

Here’s how Mitch McConnell could lose his leverage to replace Ginsburg after November

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According to a report in AZCentral, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to rush through a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could encounter an unexpected roadblock if he tries to hold a confirmation vote after the election.

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WATCH: Trump reveals how he can manipulate Democrats to help him put Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court

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President Donald Trump spoke about his plans for the Supreme Court during a Friday night campaign rally in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Trump took the stage before news was announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died and appeared to not know of the Supreme Court vacancy.

Trump explained to his audience why he had put Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his shortlist for a Supreme Court nomination.

“I said, you know, I have to have someone that we’re going sure we get approved and the only one I could think of is Ted, because he’s going to get 50 Republican votes and he’s going to get 50 Democrat votes — they’ll do anything to get him out of the Senate," Trump said.

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