At least three people were killed and nearly 70 injured in an explosion today in East Harlem, Manhattan. The blast, which caused two buildings to collapse, is thought to be caused by a gas leak. The two buildings with a total of 15 units were located on the northwest corner of 116th street and Park Avenue. At least nine people were missing hours after the explosion, and it is not known whether or not they were in the buildings or somewhere else in the city.
The explosion happened at about 9:30 a.m. At 9:13 a.m., a resident in a nearby building placed a call to Con Ed about a suspected gas leak, said utility spokesman Bob McGee. Two trucks were dispatched two minutes later, but the blast had already happened, he said.
“This is a tragedy of the worse kind because there was no indication in time to save people,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The call to Con Ed was the only warning sign.
Hunter College identified one of the victims as Sgt. Griselde Camacho, a public safety officer at the institution. “Our hearts go out to Griselde’s family at this terrible time,” the college said in statement.
According to NBC, hospital reports indicate that at least 69 people have been injured, including at least one child who was critically hurt. Two FBI agents who were near the blast on unrelated business were also injured.
The blast registered at just under .5 on the Richter scale, according to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. Trey Day, a laborer working nearby at the time, told NBC 4 New York, “It sounded like a bomb. That’s what it really sounded like,”
One of the collapsed buildings has a history of violations dating back decades, according to building department records. CNN says the violations include a lack of smoke detectors, blocked fire escapes and faulty light fixtures.
In 2008, the owners of one of the collapsed buildings were fined for failing to maintain vertical cracks at the rear of the building. There is no record of that problem ever being corrected, said CNN. One of the buildings also has 120 feet of pipeline work done last June.
The National Transportation Safety Board, an agency that investigates pipeline explosions is probing the explosion and said it was sending two investigators.