New York City Fire Department firefighters at the scene of an explosion and building collapse at Park Avenue and East 116th Street yesterday.
NEW YORK: A gas leak was responsible for a major explosion that destroyed two buildings in Manhattan yesterday, killing two people and injuring 18 others, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“Today at approximately 9.30am, there was a major explosion that destroyed two buildings. The explosion was based on a gas leak,” de Blasio told reporters at the scene.
A number of individuals are still missing, de Blasio confirmed, sparking fears that the death toll could yet rise further, but he cautioned that some of those missing could simply be safe elsewhere and out of contact.
“This is a tragedy of the worst kind, because there was no indication in time to save people. We know we have lost two people already. We know at this moment, preliminarily, 18 are injured,” the mayor said. “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,” he said.
De Blasio said there was a “very heavy impact” on buildings that surrounded the two that collapsed, and that 250 firefighters were attempting to extinguish a heavy blaze that broke out.
All the details he had were preliminary, the mayor emphasised, and simply the “best information we have at this moment.”
“From what we know now, the only indication of danger came about 15 minutes earlier when a gas leak was reported to (energy company) Con Edison,” de Blasio told reporters.
Mainline train services in and out of Grand Central terminal were suspended as a result of the incident next to its tracks.
Hundreds of police and firefighters were on site with emergency service vans and fire trucks, as a dense white column of smoke spewed into the sky next to the Metro-North railway line.
A spokesman for energy company Con Edison told local TV channel NY 1 that it got a call from the building alerting them to a possible gas leak at 9:13 am, shortly before the blast. Local residents also spoke of smelling gas in the area. But Con Edison stopped short of confirming that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak.
“Obviously what we see is something that would be consistent (with a gas leak) but we can’t say at this point what caused (the explosion),” the spokesman told NY1. “It was an explosion and a building collapsed,” a spokesman for New York Police Department told AFP. Scores of firefighters were dispatched to the scene.