Reims explosion
© AFP Photo / Francois Nascimbeni
An apartment building collapsed after an apparent gas explosion in the northern French city of Reims, killing at least three people and injuring fourteen.

The blast destroyed 10 apartments in the four-story building at around 11:15am local time. The area was evacuated over fears of a second explosion.

Initially two fatalities were reported, but later in the day crews searching for survivors turned up the body of a woman under the rubble, raising the death toll to three. Michel Bernard, the top government official in Reims, said it was unlikely that the toll would rise any higher.

One person was hospitalized with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, and another 13 people had minor injuries.

The blast at the four-story building was probably caused by a gas leak, Mayor Adeline Hazan told BFM TV, adding that the blast was "very strong" and had shattered windows in other buildings.

"The explosion in Reims is a terrible drama," the office of French President Francois Hollande said in a statement, conveying his condolences to the victims' relatives.
© AFP Photo / Francois Nascimben
A local rescue official stated that more than 100 rescue workers - including firefighters and bomb and gas experts - have arrived at the site, AP reported.

Images show that an entire corner of the building has collapsed. The apartment building that collapsed was the oldest in the area, and had been renovated several years ago, according to AFP.

A security perimeter was set up at the site for relief operations.

This is the second explosion in Reims in the past month. On April 3, four people died in a building blast.

The four victims of the explosion were from the same family as the people affected by Sunday's blast, AFP reported. The event shocked neighbors; the father, who was injured by the blast, helped rescuers find his wife and child trapped underneath the debris, before dying in an ambulance.
© AFP Photo / Francois Nascimben
© RT