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France explosion: At least eight killed after blast and fire in Pyrénées town

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By AFP  with Euronews
Rescue teams walks near to debris and burned houses after an explosion in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque
Rescue teams walks near to debris and burned houses after an explosion in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque   -   Copyright  RAYMOND ROIG/AFP or licensors

Several people have died in southwestern France after an explosion and fire ripped through a residential street.

The powerful blast occurred on Sunday night in the town of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque near the Spanish border, authorities said.

The explosion caused a fire in three small buildings on one of the Pyréneés town's main streets. The bodies of seven people -- including a baby and another child -- were pulled from the rubble on Monday.

An eighth victim was found on Tuesday, according to the Perpignan public prosecutor, Jean-David Cavaillé.

Authorities are still searching for a missing 66-year-old woman, but fire officials had told reporters there is "no hope" of finding survivors.

One man was seriously wounded after jumping from a second-storey floor to escape the flames, with at least thirty others suffering minor injuries.

The town hall said a number of local residents had been provided with accommodation after being evacuated by firefighters.

An investigation into "arson resulting in death" has been launched, Cavaille told a press conference on Monday.

But he added that it was "too early" to determine whether the cause of the explosion was "accidental or criminal".

The explosion appears to have occurred on the ground floor of the buildings, where a grocery shop and a fast-food outlet is located.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Twitter that he was travelling to the scene.

"I give my full support to the State services mobilised and to the inhabitants," Darmanin said, "my thoughts are with the victims and their families."