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One dies as huge blast rocks French university

Written by: Staff

MULHOUSE, France, Mar 24 (Reuters) One person was killed in a huge explosion that destroyed a research building at a French university in the eastern city of Mulhouse today, the fire brigade said.

Rescue workers faced thick smoke when they arrived at the ENSCMu institute of chemistry on the university campus, a Reuters witness said.

The reason for the blast, which was heard across much of the city close to the Swiss and German borders, was not immediately known.

The institute has some 650 students and staff.

The UNEF student union said the complex was not occupied by students as part of protests against a youth jobs law that have hit universities around France.

''We hope there will not be any other victims,'' fire brigade colonel Pierre Almand said, adding the explosion had killed one person and injured another. ''We are searching the rubble with our teams,'' he said.

Some 150 people were evacuated from the building after the explosion went off on the first floor of the building, he said.

Guy Schultz, president of the Haute-Alsace University to which the institute is affiliated, said the explosion happened inside a research building.

French television said at least seven people were injured, two of them seriously. One woman suffered severe burns, it said.

Witness Cedric Ridepi told the LCI TV station the inside (of the building was devastated.

''There were several spots of fire... There were screams from inside. I saw one wounded person,'' he said.

The ENSCMu chemistry institute was founded in 1822 and says it is by far the oldest chemical engineering school of its kind in France.

The school's early focus was in textile chemistry and dyes and now it covers all fields of modern chemistry.

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