New York City officials say that at least a dozen people were injured in a powerful blast inside a building that may have originated with a natural gas leak. The East Village explosion toppled one residential building with a commercial first floor and set off a fire that consumed an adjoining building.
At least four of the injured people removed from the affected buildings are in critical condition, and two were taken to the burn unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Cornell. As many as 40 people may have been inside at the time of the blast just before 3:30 p.m. EST.
An NYPD official told the New York Times that a Con Edison utility crew had been working at one of the two buildings involved in the disaster, 121 and 123 Second Avenue near East Seventh St., all day as part of some construction work underway.
One witness told the New York Times that about 4 p.m., about a half hour after the initial explosion, the façade of the first floor, which housed an Asian restaurant, had been completely blown out, covering the entire street in front of the buildings with blood, debris, and shards of glass. Minutes later, with the fire raging inside, a low rumble could be heard and the building began to move. The witness said as the smoke cleared, it became apparent that “no part of the buildings was left standing.”
The event was classified as a seventh alarm, an NYPD spokesman said, and approximately 250 firefighters and 50 Fire Department Units responded to the scene.