East Harlem explosion decimated two buildings, killing at least 2, almost 30 injuries have been reported. Residents and neighbours reported smelling gas yesterday night, but when the smell went away they went to sleep. The explosion occurred around 9:15 am Wednesday morning, just minutes after a report was made to Con Edison gas. Two crews were dispatched in response but arrived just after the explosion had rocked the neighborhood, collapsing two apartment buildings and throwing their contents into the street. Several cars stopped in the traffic were buried with people trapped inside.
New York Fire Department reports receiving their first call at 9:31 am and were greeted by piles of burning rubble and the prospect of locating at least 12 people reported missing. Despite receiving the call only minutes after the explosion occurred, the fires are now mostly out and the search is set to begin later in the afternoon. Mayor Bill de Blasio remained hopeful in a news conference but warned that the search was a delicate task and could take some time.
The two buildings that collapsed after the East Harlem explosion had businesses on their first floor and apartments on the higher floors. One building had a piano store at its base and nine apartments, the other a church with six apartments above it. There was no service underway and church officials were contacted, but it is unclear if there was anyone in the church at the time of the explosion. Some apartments were occupied but all, this is the highest contributor to the list of missing people so far.
Reports of the explosion came from over a mile away, with windows shattered and buildings shaken for blocks in every direction. Metro-North Railroad service is out of service until further notice as debris must be cleared from the track, commuters in a train had just passed the site the of the explosion on Park Avenue when it occurred and reported the feeling being similar to the rear car being slammed by a truck. Hours after the East Harlem explosion decimated two buildings the scene is chaotic and frantic.
Residents of the collapsed apartments speak with firefighters and rescue workers. Some beg them to find family members who had been home at the time of the thunderous explosion. Search and Rescue personnel sift through what wreckage they can with the help of trained dogs in the early efforts to find survivors. Family and friends of at least a dozen people have reported that they have been unable to contact them, and understandably fear the worst.
According to records there were reports of several large vertical cracks running up the back side of one of the buildings. There was no report filed if the issue was addressed and the cracks repaired. There is debated over whether or not the structural damage would have had an effect on how the building collapsed, but there is no time for finger-pointing after the East Harlem explosion decimated two buildings. The New York Fire Department has stated there are 39 units and 168 firefighters on the scene extinguishing flames and searching for survivors.
By Daniel O’Brien