Update via the AP:
A gas leak triggered an earthshaking explosion that flattened two apartment buildings on Wednesday, killing at least three people, injuring more than 60 and leaving nine missing. A tenant said residents had complained repeatedly in recent weeks about “unbearable” gas smells.
By evening, rescue workers finally began the search for victims amid the broken bricks, splintered wood and mangled metal after firefighters spent most of the day dousing the flames. Heavy equipment, including back hoes and a bulldozer, arrived to clear the mountain of debris where the two five-story East Harlem buildings stood. Flood lights were in place. Thermal imaging cameras were at the ready to identify heat spots – bodies or pockets of fire.
The recovery was facing hardship in the form of the weather, which was expected to drop into the 20s with rain. Some parts of the debris pile were inaccessible because of a sinkhole caused by a subsurface water main break, officials said.
The fiery blast, on Park Avenue at 116th Street, not far from the edge of Central Park, erupted about 9:30 a.m., around 15 minutes after a neighboring resident reported smelling gas, authorities said. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they didn’t arrive until it was too late.
The explosion shattered windows a block away, rained debris onto elevated commuter railroad tracks close by, cast a plume of smoke over the skyline and sent people running into the streets.
At least two people were killed and over a dozen injured after a gas explosion leveled two apartment buildings in New York City Wednesday morning.
A senior city official added to the New York Times that there would likely be more fatalities. At least 16 individuals were transported to area hospitals.
“This is an occupied building, there were people living there, we have people missing,” the senior official told the Times. “There was a complete collapse; the fire is still going so we can’t make a search. There will be fatalities.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio added at a press conference, “There are a number of missing individuals.”
— Obi Okere (@obiokere) March 12, 2014
— Juan A. Vazquez (@madebyjuan) March 12, 2014
— Bill Leopold (@BLeopold7) March 12, 2014
Picture of the possible building collapse in Harlem: pic.twitter.com/tS3L10w1Lp
— financial acrobat (@finansakrobat) March 12, 2014
— FDNY (@FDNY) March 12, 2014
Exclusive photo up close of scene of Manhattan/ Harlem explosion fire. pic.twitter.com/NoKzBmo7hy
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 12, 2014
This is a developing news story. Updates will be added.
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