New York, NY, United States (4E) – A powerful gas explosion collapsed two five-storey buildings in East Harlem on Wednesday morning killing two women and injuring at least 19 other people.
A number of people also were reported missing after the explosion that destroyed a piano store with apartments above it and a Spanish Christian church on Park Avenue near the corner of 116th Street.
Hundreds of firefighters were at the scene spraying water on the blazing buildings and searching for survivors from the rubble. Gas and electric utility workers tore up pavements to shut gas lines. New York police bomb squad members were also at the scene.
People gathered in the streets as clouds of dark smoke rise from the Hispanic neighborhood. Metro North commuter rail service was suspended as debris from the explosion landed on the elevated tracks across the street, authorities said, according to CNN.
Five of the injured were taken to the Harlem Hospital (HH) and 14 were taken to the Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH). An injured child is in critical condition at the HH while three are in serious condition at the MSH, hospital officials said.
New York electricity provider Con Edison said it received a call from a resident near the collapsed buildings reporting of a gas odor around 9:13 p.m. The company dispatched two trucks, which arrived after the explosion, Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who came to the scene, told reporters the gas leak report came 15 minutes before the explosion.
Firetrucks also arrived late saving firefighters’ lives, said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.
Residents said the area near the collapsed buildings reeked of gas for years.