An explosion led to a building collapse and a fire in New York’s East Village, leaving at least three people in critical condition, Mayor Bill de Blasio says.
Initial reports suggest a gas leak led to the explosion.
“At this moment, we know of 12 individuals who are injured, three of whom are in critical condition,” the mayor said, adding that the numbers could change.
The mayor said work was being done on the building at 121 Second Avenue where the explosion occurred. The blast caused the building to “partially collapse,” while the neighbouring building collapsed as well, the mayor said.
Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said about 250 firefighters responded to the fire, which engulfed the building and sent up clouds of smoke.
“The scene of this explosion blew the front of 121 across the street,” he said. Fire members searched the building before it started to collapse, but were forced out as the structure became unstable.
“We will be here for a very long night,” he said, adding that the area has been secured to keep people out of the area in case there are more structural problems.
The mayor said Thursday evening that the fire has been contained to four buildings.
Freelance photographer Michael Seto, who lives about 1½ blocks away, said he was having lunch when the explosion shook his apartment. He grabbed his camera, ran outside and found a crowd gathering.
“By the second storey, the front part of the building, the facade, the first and second storeys, it looked like, had collapsed into the street,” he said.
Rubble was on the sidewalk, and glass and debris had been flung across an avenue.
“It spread very quickly and pretty much engulfed the first floor,” he said.
He saw one person lying on the ground, being attended to by two to three passersby who were holding his head still. A woman was sitting on the curb with blood coming down her face, and another woman walked past him with blood on her face.
The mayor said a reception station had been set up at an area school, where a Red Cross team was in place to provide help.
‘Running and screaming’
“We heard a big sound, then three or four people fell on the street,” said Shameem Noor, a cashier at Veselka, a restaurant about a block away.
“People were running and screaming,” he said. “There’s a big fire on the roof and black smoke.”
Reports of the collapse came in at 3:17 p.m. ET, and fire crews were on the scene within minutes, the fire department said. As the day went on, more crews were called in as the blaze escalated into a seven-alarm fire.