Twenty-two people were injured and two others were missing following an explosion possibly caused by natural gas in New York City Thursday that caused the collapse or partial collapse of three buildings, heavy fire damage in a fourth, and forced the evacuations of 11 more.
“From what we know at this moment, and this is again preliminary, it appears to be a gas explosion, but there's a lot more we need to learn about the details," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Friday near the site of the explosion in the East Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. "The fire, again, continues. Thank God it's just smoldering at this point, but it can flare up some as the debris is cleared away."
The explosion occurred at about 3:17 p.m. EDT Thursday in a building at 121 2nd Avenue that housed a restaurant on the ground floor and residences in upper floors. More than 250 firefighters were reportedly called to the scene.
Con Edison of New York, the utility that serves the area, had workers in the building where the explosion occurred at approximately 2 p.m. to evaluate a meter installation for a new service that was going to be installed there, Con Ed President Craig Ivey told reporters. "The new installation did not pass our inspection at that time, so it meant it wasn't ready for gas to be introduced," Ivey said.
"We had no reports of gas odors in the area prior to the fire and explosion," a Con Edison spokesman said Thursday. "A survey conducted [Wednesday] of the gas mains on the block found no leaks. We continue to work with all agencies on the investigation into the cause, and we are praying for the recovery of all the injured."
The accident comes a little more than a year after a gas-related explosion and fire that killed seven people and destroyed two buildings in the East Harlem section of New York City (see Daily GPI, March 12, 2014). A subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed natural gas in unusual concentrations in the ground near the site of the explosion (see Daily GPI, March 17, 2014).