New York building explodes after gas leak in Harlem

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An explosion in Harlem, New York killed two people and seriously injured others on Wednesday morning. Thick smoke filled the air around upper Manhattan as firefighters fought to rescue survivors from the two buildings affected by the explosion that struck a building at 116th Street and Park Avenue in the East Harlem area of New York. At this time, 17 people have been classified as "injured" and many more remain unaccounted for.

Witnesses described being jolted awake in the early hours of the day by what sounded like an earthquake. Broken glass littered the pavement on several adjacent streets and witnesses say that the force of the explosion was so powerful that groceries were knocked from the shelves in shops around the area. Police wore medical masks as they set up perimeter barriers and they handed out similar protective face-wear to residents and passers-by to shield them from the lingering smoke and debris.

“It felt like an earthquake had rattled my whole building,” Waldemar Infante, a porter from an adjacent building said. “There were glass shards everywhere on the ground.”

Mainline trains were also affected by the explosion. Service from and to Grand Central terminal were halted. As the incident happened close to train tracks, workers needed to check the rails before allowing services to resume and the thick smoke made visibility too bad for the trains to run safely along the Metro-North railway line.

The cause has not been confirmed but it’s believed to have been a gas leak. A spokesperson for the energy firm Con Edison said that they took a call alerting them to a possible gas leak at 9.13am, just before the blast was felt. Residents interviewed by members of the local media also reported smelling gas.

"Obviously what we see is something that would be consistent [with a gas leak] but we can't say at this point what caused [the explosion]," the Con Edison spokesperson said.

Officials for the NYPD would only confirm that “It was an explosion and a building collapsed.” No one in the New York City Fire Department would be drawn on the cause of the explosion either.

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