UPDATE: As of early Thursday morning, local police say that thee people have been confirmed dead and nine remain unaccounted for.
Three people have died and 18 are injured after a gas explosion caused multiple buildings to collapse in Manhattan, New York City.
Two buildings have reportedly collapsed, with photos and eyewitness accounts from the scene showing a massive dust cloud, roaring flames and smoke billowing high above Harlem.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said a gas leak was responsible for causing the building on the corner of 116th Street and Park Avenue to burst into flames, as residents reported smelling a strange odor to ConEdison right before the blast.
UPDATE: Firefighters rushing the injured to hospital following Harlem explosion. Total chaos. pic.twitter.com/1IfGRh2sto
— Christopher Bucktin (@ChrisBucktin) March 12, 2014
— FDNY (@FDNY) March 12, 2014
— Obi Okere (@obiokere) March 12, 2014
— Obi Okere (@obiokere) March 12, 2014
Huge apt(?) building explosion on E116th + Park Ave pic.twitter.com/YHz8AteCyY
— Jen Ortiz (@jenortiznyc) March 12, 2014
Manhattan: Park Ave & West 116 St. Major explosion and collapse with people trapped reported 10-60 transmitted. pic.twitter.com/TtWEqBb184
— New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts) March 12, 2014
CBS reports the smoke could be seen from 114th Street and Park Avenue.
NBC New York reports Metro-North trains nearby have been shut down due to debris from the explosion blocking the tracks.
As of this time, 17 injuries have been reported, with one fatality.
A man who was on the 15th floor of a building on 125th Street said he saw dark smoke billowing down several blocks.
“The building shook and then we looked to see what was happening. We saw a whole lot of smoke. A lot of smoke came out,” witness Samuel Paul told CBS 2. “There’s a lot of dark smoke still coming out. A lot of fire engines I saw going to 125th Street.”
“The smoke started to rise. It looked like something fell because it wasn’t like a fire. It just looked like debris smoke, similar to 9/11,” Paul added.
Another resident near the scene of the explosion said: “For weeks we've been smelling gas."
Ashley Rivera, 21, told New York Daily News: "We saw people flying out of the window. ... Those are my neighbors."
It has been reported one of the buildings that collapsed had a piano repair shop with apartments above. The second building housed a church.
A spokesperson for ConEd told NBC4 that at 9:13am they received a call from a resident at neighbouring 1652 Park Avenue saying she smelled gas in the bedroom of her apartment.
"She indicated that the odour may have been coming from the outside of the building,'' he said.
The company dispatched a crew two minutes later but they got there just moments after the explosion, he said.
— Edward Kim (@edwkim) March 12, 2014
03/14/2014 1:22 PM EDT
De Blasio Details Housing Plan
Mayor de Blasio said displaced families will be provided temporary housing for up to three months, thanks to Real Estate Board of New York.
03/14/2014 1:18 PM EDT
FDNY Commissioner: Final Debris Being Removed
FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said the department is in the process of removing the site's final debris. The debris will be taken to Randall's Island for further forensic investigation.
03/14/2014 1:12 PM EDT
De Blasio, Mark-Viverito Provide Update On Explosion Outside Resident Service Center
03/14/2014 12:21 PM EDT
Bill Clinton Visits Explosion Site
Former President Bill Clinton is currently visiting the site of the #EastHarlemExplosion— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) March 14, 2014
03/13/2014 7:31 PM EDT
The Tragic Irony Behind The Building Collapse
HuffPost's Saki Knafo reports:
A gas leak almost certainly played a role in the explosion that flattened two buildings in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, killing at least seven people and injuring many more. City officials have said as much, and local residents told reporters on Wednesday that they smelled gas in the area well before the blast.
So it’s darkly ironic that the owner of one of the buildings destroyed in the explosion had actually shunned gas for an alternative energy source -- a far less combustible one.
Biodiesel, a unconventional fuel celebrated by proponents as a safer and cleaner alternative to both gas and petroleum, is made of recycled vegetable oil, animal fats, and other substances. Only about 1,000 buildings in New York City have heating systems that run solely on biodiesel, but the building at 1646 Park Avenue was one of them.
03/13/2014 7:13 PM EDT
Officials: Eighth Person Found Dead
BREAKING: NYC officials say 8th body pulled from rubble at Harlem explosion site.— The Associated Press (@AP) 4 years ago
03/13/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Fourth Victim Identified
Andreas Panagopoulos has been identified as one of at least seven victims who died from the explosion.
The Wall Street Journal reports Panagopoulos, 43, was a Greek musician who lived in East Harlem and worked in online advertising.
03/13/2014 3:47 PM EDT
Children With Asthma Near Explosion Site Return Home
03/13/2014 1:11 PM EDT
De Blasio: No Indication Of Asbestos In The Air
De Blasio said that there was no reason to suspect there might be asbestos in the air after a deadly explosion that rocked Harlem on Wednesday. In a presser on Thursday, he stressed that people in the area should still close their windows and avoid any visible smoke outside.
03/13/2014 1:08 PM EDT
NYPD Commish: We Will Look At Surveillance Footage
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that there were a number of surveillance cameras that captured images of the explosion and they will be a part of the ongoing investigation.