At least three people were killed, 24 injured and nine people missing when a gas explosion leveled two buildings in East Harlem Wednesday morning.
The blast and subsequent building collapses on Park Avenue at East 116th Street sent billows of smoke pouring through surrounding blocks and emergency crews and first responders rushing to the scene. The New York Times reports the first call to the New York City Fire Department came at 9:31 a.m. A fire was still burning at the site as of 12:30 p.m.
The two leveled buildings were five stories with at least a dozen apartments between the two of them, reports the newspaper, and witnesses reported hearing the explosion from more than a mile away.
“We saw people flying out of windows,” a witness told the Daily News. “For weeks we’ve been smelling gas.”
“It was loud, like boom, boom!” said another. “It rocked the whole block. A window blew out of the other shop down the street. It looked like the towers all over again. People covered in dust and covering their mouths.”
The New York Post identified the buildings to include a piano store and Spanish Christian Church. More than 250 firefighters were on the scene battling a five-alarm blaze.
Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed during a press conference near the site that the explosion was due to a gas leak.