A massive gas explosion that occurred on Wednesday morning in Harlem, New York City has knocked down two buildings and as of today, the total casualty list is 7 dead and 60 injured. The seventh body was recovered from rubble earlier this morning. Initial reports after the blast had confirmed two fatalities. Firefighters of New York City Fire Department used thermal imaging cameras to analyze the rubble and recover the additional bodies. As of now, there are still five people unaccounted for or reported missing.
The blast was so powerful it knocked down two buildings immediately, reducing them completely to rubble. Each were five story buildings with a total of 15 apartments. The explosion is reported to have occurred at around 9:30 am on the corner of 116th street and Park Avenue, a densely populated upper Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. The blast was so powerful it shattered windows a block away and hurled debris onto train tracks.
Assisting the fire fighters are the police and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board who are investigating the exact cause of the explosion. The combined rescue operation personnel are braving the frigid cold and the blinding suffocating smoke in their search for the missing. Sections of the debris are still inaccessible because of a sink hole caused by a rupture of the underground water line. At least three of the injured are children and one fifteen year old boy was reported to be in critical condition. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio stated that a preliminary investigation revealed the cause of the explosion to be a gas leak.
Officials from the power utility company Con Edison had responded to complaints of a strong gas odor by residents and neighbors. A crew was dispatched at 9:15 am but were only able to arrive after the explosion. Gas service to this block has been shut off. The explosion even though controlled, is still hurling up debris, make it hard for the crew to get to the source of the leak. The smoke cloud is still thick and in the bitter cold about 69 people in neighboring buildings have had to evacuate.
Except for the teenager in critical condition who suffered broken bones, burns and internal injuries, the vast majority of injuries for other victims included minor cuts and bruises and smoke inhalation. Eyewitness reports include sounds of a loud explosion, shattering glass and crumbling walls. Of the dead include four women and three men. In addition to the apartments these two buildings hosted a Spanish church and a piano store.
The explosion has sent so much debris onto neighboring streets and sidewalks, that many cars remain completely submerged. Prior to this explosion, there have been complaints of a gas leak at this building in May of this year. In response, New York City’s Con ED had made repairs on the property and subsequently inspected the premises in July to make sure the work was done properly. It has also been revealed that twice in February two high-speed checks were completed on the gas line to this building.
By Unni K. Nair