An explosion leveled two buildings this morning at around 9:30 a.m. in East Harlem, sending flames and smoke into the air and injuring up to 16 people. Medical masks were given to residents and onlookers because of the thick white smoke blanketing the area. At least one person is dead, and a senior city official believes that there will most likely be more fatalities.
CNN reports that Con Edison had been called to the site in East Harlem to check on a possible gas leak. They had received a call at 9:13 a.m. from a resident at one of the newer buildings on Park Avenue, and according to a spokesman, Con Edison had dispatched a truck two minutes later. They arrived after the explosion.
More than 200 firefighters from more than 40 units responded, with many spraying water on the roaring fire from ladders. Authorities said that Metro North commuter rail service had been suspended since debris from the explosion had landed on the elevated tracks across the street.
Eoin Hayes, 26, said the explosion shook his apartment building, which was almost 10 blocks away.
“I was in my bedroom and the explosion went off, it kind of shook the whole building,” he told the Associated Press. “You could feel the vibrations going through the building. I ran to the window and saw the fire and the smoke going up and the sirens start.”
“For weeks we’ve been smelling gas,” said Ashley Rivera, 21. “We saw people flying out of the window. … Those are my neighbors.”