Two New York City buildings collapse in explosion, 4 dead

Two New York City buildings collapse in explosion, 4 dead

The explosion sparked inevitable reminders for some New Yorkers of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 that brought down the Twin Towers.



By (AP)

Published: Fri 14 Mar 2014, 1:19 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 1:38 AM

A major explosion caused by a gas leak flattened two Manhattan apartment buildings in a fireball Wednesday, killing at least four people and injuring 63 others.


Firefighters battle a fire after a building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. - AP

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident “a tragedy of the worst kind” and his office said nine residents from the two collapsed buildings were still unaccounted for by nightfall.

Firefighters battled throughout the afternoon to extinguish the heavy fire in East Harlem, where witnesses compared the scene of twisted metal, thick white smoke and dusty rubble to a war zone.

Late Wednesday the death toll was raised from three to four, said US media outlets CNN, ABC and CBS.

The explosion sparked inevitable reminders for some New Yorkers of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 that brought down the Twin Towers. Other witnesses said it felt like an earthquake.

There were 15 apartments in the two buildings that collapsed, de Blasio and city officials told reporters near the scene at 116th Street and Park Avenue, a mainly Latino community.

Around 15 minutes before the blast, energy company Con Edison received a call from an adjoining apartment building alerting maintenance staff to the smell of gas.

Firefighters work the scene of an explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. - AP

The explosion struck around 9:30 am (1330 GMT) and the New York Fire Department said firefighters were on the scene two minutes later.

“There was a major explosion that destroyed two buildings. The explosion was based on a gas leak,” de Blasio said.

It was the first deadly disaster of its kind to strike the city of eight million since the Democrat took office in January and will raise concerns about safety in less affluent neighborhoods.

“There is a tremendous amount of anxiety, but suffice it to say that every effort is being expended to locate each and every one of these (missing) individuals,” the mayor said.

The death toll rose to three as dusk fell, a spokesman for New York Fire Department told AFP.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry said two women who were among the dead were Mexicans, along with one of those injured.

Lamenting the “deeply unfortunate incident,” the ministry said in a brief statement that Mexican consular staff remain in close contact with New York authorities.

Firefighters from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) respond to a 5-alarm fire and building collapse at 1646 Park Ave in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan on March 12, 2014 in New York City. - AFP

“I was in my bedroom and the explosion went off, it kind of shook the whole building,” Eoin Hayes, 26, said. “You could feel the vibrations going through the building.”

Hayes said the fire consumed one building and then moved to the one next to it before the flames eventually subsided.

The explosion occurred very close to elevated Metro-North commuter railroad tracks. Train service was suspended to and from Grand Central on all three train lines while employees remove debris from the tracks.

The fire department said it sent nearly 170 members to the scene.


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