Building collapse in NYC leaves 19 people injured, four critically – Al Jazeera America

Posted: Friday, March 27, 2015

An explosion and partial collapse of a building in New York City’s East Village neighborhood on Thursday left 19 people injured, four of them in critical condition.

After the initial blast at around 3:30 p.m. a fire spread to two nearby buildings.

Stretchers were observed being rushed to the scene, as police moved bystanders back from the site of the explosion, citing concerns over the effects of smoke inhalation.

Firefighters said at least 19 people were hurt, four critically, some with burns to their airways. 

People close to the incident describe hearing a loud bang. Sam Ben, a local business owner, said he heard a “very big noise.” A customer later said he believed that it had come from a restaurant on the second floor of the building.

Another nearby resident suggested that the building was densely populated with mainly elderly people. She feared that the number of injuries could climb.

A spokesman for New York’s fire department said the fire was affecting two buildings. They also confirmed a total number of 12 injuries.

Investigators are looking into whether there had been a gas leak. There were some reports of an explosion before the fire.

Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, ran outside when he heard “a huge boom.”

“Already there was smoke everywhere” when he saw the building, he said. “The flames were coming out from the roof. The fire was coming out of every window.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building that collapsed was to blame.

A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade, and inspectors from utility Con Edison had been there to check on a planned meter installation an hour before the fire, company President Craig Ivey said. But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters wasn’t big enough, and the inspectors said gas couldn’t be introduced to that part of the building, Con Ed said.

De Blasio noted no one had reported a gas leak before Thursday’s blast. Con Edison said it had surveyed the gas mains on the block Wednesday and found no leaks.

The state Department of Public Service was monitoring Con Ed’s response.

Firefighters continued pouring water on the buildings for hours after the explosion, in an area of old tenement buildings that are home to students and longtime residents near New York University and Washington Square Park.

De Blasio said it didn’t appear that anyone was missing.

“We are praying that no other individuals are injured and that there are no fatalities,” he said.

The fire happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem killed eight people and injured more than 50. A National Transportation Safety Board report released last week said a leak reported just before the deadly blast may have come from a 3-year-old section of plastic pipe rather than a 127-year-old cast-iron segment that came under scrutiny in the immediate aftermath.

With The Associated Press

 

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