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Manhattan Explosion Kills Three: Buildings Collapse In Harlem After Residents Reported Smelling Gas (PICTURES) (VIDEO)

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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.

READ MORE: Man Pilots Drone Over Harlem Explosion Site (PICTURES)

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.

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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.

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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.

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Mayor de Blasio said displaced families will be provided temporary housing for up to three months, thanks to Real Estate Board of New York.

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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.

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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.

Read more here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 311 did not receive any call the night before the explosion about a potential gas leak or any strange smells. He urged New York City residents that they should call if they think anything might be unusual.

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Con Ed chief John McAvoy said that the company looked over 10 years worth of data about the gas main in the building that exploded in Harlem yesterday. There only two cases of any work was done there, he said, and there was no evidence of anything troublesome.

De Blasio stressed that a gas leak isn't "treated as business as usual." He urged viewers that if they ever smell something to call 311 or 180075ConEd.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY commissioner Sal Casano said that they could not officially say what caused the explosion at a Harlem building on Wednesday.

In a presser on Thursday, De Blasio said officials expect to have more information in the next coming days. They can only get conclusive information once the fire is completely out, he said.

Cassano said that emergency personnel need to get to the basement and clear the debris in order to reach heaters, meters, places that could be a source of ignition. Until then, the cause cannot be determined.

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FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said that the department went through all the 311/911 records from the past 30 days and found no reports of a gas leak from the two buildings or from surrounding buildings.

This contradicts reports from residents in the area that they complained of a gas-like smell for months before the explosion occurred. Tenants said they called 311 about the issues.

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The NYC Department of Health has recommended that families who live near the area where the explosion occurred should keep their windows closed and limit exposure as much as possible. The smoky air from the "smoldering wreckage" could still cause health issues for some people. Anyone experiencing shortness of breath should seek immediate medical attention, de Blasio said.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Con Edison was on site with the emergency personnel helping restore power to the area.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed that anyone who needs help, be it aid or counseling, will receive it--- regardless of immigration states. He said that 66 people, including 14 families with children, are receiving temporary shelter at nearby a Salvation Army

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Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed in a press conference that 7 people have been confirmed as dead after the horrific explosion in Harlem yesterday. The names of two victims have been released, he said, but the others would not until their respective families are notified.

Some good news, he said, was that no first responders have been injured in the rescue efforts. He said that the efforts would continue as long as needed.

He urged anyone trying to find family member who may have been affected can call 311 and ask for Unified Victims Identification System. The system has had about 200 calls so far.

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Bill De Blasio called the explosion a "serious loss of life, painful 26 hours." In a press conference he said that the wind was creating "exceedingly difficult circumstances" with the wreckage still burning slowly.

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The Daily News reported a remarkable story about one of the people affected by the explosion. Colin Patterson, who lived in the back of Absolute Piano, one of the businesses destroyed in yesterday's building explosion in Harlem escaped serious injury, in part thanks to the instruments strewn about him.

"I was in a miraculous cocoon," he told the News.

Read more here.

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At least 5 people are unaccounted for in the horrific explosion that rocked Harlem yesterday. As the New York Times reports, the death toll has risen to 7 people. Rescuers are still searching.

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