A call came into the gas company at 9:13 am this morning, reporting a suspected gas leak. The utility company dispatched workers to investigate just two minutes later. Before they arrived on scene, an explosion occurred, injuring at least 16 and triggering the collapse of two buildings.
The exact cause of the explosion has not been determined, but the proximity in time of the call about a gas leak and the actual blast point to it as the likely cause. Those in the area of East Harlem, near Manhattan, where the blast occurred reported hearing a sound similar to a bomb exploding.
Onlookers noted that the buildings were just piles of rubble and hoped that no one had been trapped underneath. Reports have confirmed that two people were killed in the blast. Crews cautioned that not all have been accounted for; the number of killed or seriously injured may rise.
Many have posted pictures of the blast’s aftermath – billowing smoke and emergency response crews. As many as 250 firefighters responded to the resulting blaze.
A nearby school and local train stops were closed due to the explosion and fire. At least one building has been declared ‘compromised’ by the blast. Several people were left homeless after the blast destroyed their apartments in the East Harlem neighborhood.
Source: WHNT News 19, “2 Dead, Several Hurt As Building Collapses From Apparent Gas Explosion in Manhattan,” March 12, 2014