New York City explosion: 2 dead, 36 hurt after 2 apartment buildings flattened

NEW YORK - A gas leak is believed to have triggered a massive explosion and fire Wednesday that leveled two five-story apartment buildings in Manhattan's East Harlem, killing three people and wounding dozens of others, authorities said.

A law enforcement source said at least 10 people remained missing hours after the blast. Firefighters were still frantically picking through rubble in search of survivors.

The number of injured climbed through the afternoon: At least 63 were reported injured.

Harlem Hospital received 13 patients, including a child in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Mount Sinai Hospital was treating 22 patients, including a woman with head trauma in intensive care. Three were in serious condition, a spokeswoman said earlier Wednesday. Many patients came in on their own. Some of the patients were children.

Metropolitan Hospital Center received 17 patients; nine adults and one child remained under evaluation in stable condition.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital received 11 patients: One was treated and released, and ten patients were still under evaluation.

The injured included two FBI agents who were in the vicinity of the explosion, said New York FBI spokesman Chris Sinos. The injuries were not life-threatening.

The identities of the three people who died were not available.

More fatalities appeared likely. Fire officials reported that two survivors suffered life-threatening injuries.

Near 116th Street and Park Avenue, once the heart of New York's large Puerto Rican community, about a dozen firefighters tore at two-story-high mounds of bricks in a search for survivors from the two buildings -- a piano store and an evangelical church.

Marisela Frias, 44, tried unsuccessfully to call her 67-year-old aunt, Carmen Tanco, a second-floor resident of one of the collapsed buildings. She called and called her cell number and got no answer, she said.

"Always she answers right away and if she misses it because she didn't get to in time, she calls me right back," Frias said. "Calling nonstop and it goes straight to voice mail, which never ever, ever, ever in my years -- and I'm 44 -- of knowing her, ever cannot get ahold of her. ... All I want to know is she's OK."

As gas and electric utility workers tore up pavement in an effort to shut gas lines, people gathered in the streets, many crying.

"This is a tragedy of the worst kind, because there was no indication in time to save people," de Blasio said.

One woman tried in vain to find her husband, Jordy Salas, who may have been on the second floor of one of the collapsed buildings. She fainted and was taken to a hospital.

"We're expending every effort to locate each and every loved one," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at the scene. "Hopefully we'll find that some of them are in other parts of the city and have just not been located yet."

Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said the utility received a call about a gas leak at 9:13 a.m. The call came from a resident at one of the newer buildings on Park Avenue. The utility dispatched a truck two minutes later, but it arrived after the explosion, the spokesman said.

Edward Foppiano, the utility's senior vice president of gas operations, said the cause of the blast was being treated as a gas leak, though there was no evidence of that yet. A routine service check, involving a truck with special equipment, detected no gas leaks on February 28, he said.

Foppiano said one of the buildings had a gas leak in May 2013, which was repaired the following month.

A building department official said one of the two Park Avenue buildings that collapsed received a city permit last year for the installation of 120 feet of gas piping. The work was completed last June. In 2008, owners of the adjacent building, which also collapsed, were fined for failing to maintain vertical cracks in the rear of the building. The condition was not reported as corrected to the buildings department.

There were a total of 15 units in the two buildings, officials said.

Building department records detailed a litany of violations, dating back decades, for one of the collapsed buildings, including a lack of smoke detectors, blocked fire escapes and faulty light fixtures.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline explosions, said it was sending investigators to New York.

The mayor told reporters that the report of the gas leak, which he said came about 15 minutes before the explosion, was "the only indication of danger."

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said responding firefighters barely missed the blast.

"If we were here five minutes earlier we may have had some fatalities among firefighters," he said. "Not being here may have saved some lives."

Clouds of dark smoke rose over the largely residential

NEW YORK - A gas leak is believed to have triggered a massive explosion and fire Wednesday that leveled two five-story apartment buildings in Manhattan's East Harlem, killing three people and wounding dozens of others, authorities said.

A law enforcement source said at least 10 people remained missing hours after the blast. Firefighters were still frantically picking through rubble in search of survivors.

The number of injured climbed through the afternoon: At least 63 were reported injured.

Harlem Hospital received 13 patients, including a child in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Mount Sinai Hospital was treating 22 patients, including a woman with head trauma in intensive care. Three were in serious condition, a spokeswoman said earlier Wednesday. Many patients came in on their own. Some of the patients were children.

Metropolitan Hospital Center received 17 patients; nine adults and one child remained under evaluation in stable condition.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital received 11 patients: One was treated and released, and ten patients were still under evaluation.

The injured included two FBI agents who were in the vicinity of the explosion, said New York FBI spokesman Chris Sinos. The injuries were not life-threatening.

The identities of the three people who died were not available.

More fatalities appeared likely. Fire officials reported that two survivors suffered life-threatening injuries.

Near 116th Street and Park Avenue, once the heart of New York's large Puerto Rican community, about a dozen firefighters tore at two-story-high mounds of bricks in a search for survivors from the two buildings -- a piano store and an evangelical church.

Marisela Frias, 44, tried unsuccessfully to call her 67-year-old aunt, Carmen Tanco, a second-floor resident of one of the collapsed buildings. She called and called her cell number and got no answer, she said.

"Always she answers right away and if she misses it because she didn't get to in time, she calls me right back," Frias said. "Calling nonstop and it goes straight to voice mail, which never ever, ever, ever in my years -- and I'm 44 -- of knowing her, ever cannot get ahold of her. ... All I want to know is she's OK."

As gas and electric utility workers tore up pavement in an effort to shut gas lines, people gathered in the streets, many crying.

"This is a tragedy of the worst kind, because there was no indication in time to save people," de Blasio said.

One woman tried in vain to find her husband, Jordy Salas, who may have been on the second floor of one of the collapsed buildings. She fainted and was taken to a hospital.

"We're expending every effort to locate each and every loved one," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at the scene. "Hopefully we'll find that some of them are in other parts of the city and have just not been located yet."

Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said the utility received a call about a gas leak at 9:13 a.m. The call came from a resident at one of the newer buildings on Park Avenue. The utility dispatched a truck two minutes later, but it arrived after the explosion, the spokesman said.

Edward Foppiano, the utility's senior vice president of gas operations, said the cause of the blast was being treated as a gas leak, though there was no evidence of that yet. A routine service check, involving a truck with special equipment, detected no gas leaks on February 28, he said.

Foppiano said one of the buildings had a gas leak in May 2013, which was repaired the following month.

A building department official said one of the two Park Avenue buildings that collapsed received a city permit last year for the installation of 120 feet of gas piping. The work was completed last June. In 2008, owners of the adjacent building, which also collapsed, were fined for failing to maintain vertical cracks in the rear of the building. The condition was not reported as corrected to the buildings department.

There were a total of 15 units in the two buildings, officials said.

Building department records detailed a litany of violations, dating back decades, for one of the collapsed buildings, including a lack of smoke detectors, blocked fire escapes and faulty light fixtures.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline explosions, said it was sending investigators to New York.

The mayor told reporters that the report of the gas leak, which he said came about 15 minutes before the explosion, was "the only indication of danger."

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said responding firefighters barely missed the blast.

"If we were here five minutes earlier we may have had some fatalities among firefighters," he said. "Not being here may have saved some lives."

Clouds of dark smoke rose over the largely residential

Print this article Back to Top

Comments