New York City Police Searching for Two Missing After Gas Explosion

New York City

New York City police are searching for two people reportedly still missing after yesterday’s gas explosion demolished four buildings, injuring many in its wake. The explosion occurred shortly after 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, on the busy East Village intersection of Second Avenue and East 7th Street. Because of its proximity to New York University, Cooper Union, and a number of offices and art galleries, this downtown Manhattan block receives a diverse amount of traffic from students, businessmen, and creatives as well as local residents. The block is  also bustling because two restaurants, Pomme Frittes and Sushi Park, sit adjacent to each other with foodies dining throughout the day.

Not more than an hour after inspectors from Con Edison left the site, after having fail to approve it due to insufficient space to install a meter, a giant explosion tore through the building, located at 121 2nd Avenue. The red brick facade covering the first two floors blasted into the street, sending along with it smoke, flames, cement, glass, and debris, as well as fleeing residents, workers, and pedestrians. Firefighters who arrived on the scene, searched through the crumbling structure as well as three neighboring ones where the fire had spread, with little time before the building where the explosion took place fell to the ground, along with the one next to it. While one of the two outer buildings sustained serious fire damage, it was recorded as structurally sound, however, a fourth one will need to be demolished.

The four New York City buildings were reported to contain 49 residential apartments, from which about 90 people registering for assistance with the American Red Cross were displaced. New York City police, searching the scene in the aftermath, reported that at least 19 were injured with four reported in critical condition, and two are still said to be missing. One of the missing persons was reported to be a man by the name of Nicholas Figueroa, whose family showed the New York Times a bank statement where he had used his debit card to pay for lunch at Sushi Park for himself and his co-worker, who is injured and being hospitalized.

As of Friday, no deaths have been reported, but the fire is still raging. Of the more than 250 firefighters who were sent to the scene, at least four were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Residents who had safely fled tried to return with the hope of helping the injured, but police and firefighters instructed them to keep away.

The close-knit East Village neighborhood in New York City carries a flavor of its own.  In 1911, it was home to mainly immigrants living in tenements. By the 60s, this rustic New York City area became a colorful scene of social activism, art, and music. The 80s gave way to squatters, followed by gentrification in the 90s, which brought along its own brand of yuppies and creatives who could afford to pay the perpetually rising rents. Even through the gentrification, the area retained its warm feel, which showed in the aftermath of the explosion. Residents are still holding out hope that the New York City police will find the two missing people for whom they are searching as a result of the explosion. While local neighbors pitched in to help, a hotline has been set up to provide information. Meanwhile, P.S. 63, a neighborhood elementary school, was converted to a relocation center, and local hotels offered residents a free three-day stay.

By Bill Ades

The Washington Post
The Daily News
Photo by Victoria Belanger – Flickr License

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