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Thursday, March 26, 2015

East Village Explosion Injures at Least 12; Buildings Collapse

New York buildings collapse in possible gas blast, 19 hurt Fri, Mar 27 02:59 AM EDT Photo: 3-alarm fire in New York City at 66th and 1st - @bettemarston - By Ellen Wulfhorst and Sebastien Malo NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four apartment buildings in New York's East Village neighborhood caught fire from an apparent gas explosion on Thursday and three collapsed, causing 19 injuries, authorities said. The blast shortly after 3 p.m. sent flames leaping into the sky and rocked the residential area in Manhattan. Bloodied victims ran from the buildings, collapsing on the street, witnesses said. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference that preliminary evidence indicated it was a gas-related explosion. A Fire Department spokesman said late on Thursday that three of the four buildings had collapsed or partially collapsed. The fourth building "is still involved with some pockets of fire, it's still an active scene. Investigation is still ongoing," he said. Nineteen people were hurt. Four, all civilians, were in critical condition, the spokesman said. The Con Edison (ED.N) utility said in a statement that its inspectors had been at the site on Thursday to evaluate work a building plumber was doing in a building for a gas service upgrade. The work failed to pass inspection, it said. The seven-alarm blaze in the neighborhood of small businesses, restaurants and apartments involved more than 250 Fire Department personnel. Moishe Perl, 64, who owns Moishe’s Bake Shop nearby, said he heard an explosion, ran outside and saw the lower floors of a building start to crumble. "Most of the people were running out of the building and climbing down the fire escape," he said, while others were helped out of windows by passersby. Ben Mackinnon, 28, said he was drinking coffee in a cafe when he heard an explosion from across the street. "The explosion was big enough that the door of the cafe blew open," Mackinnon said. He said he saw several bloodied men emerge from a sushi restaurant where the explosion appeared to originate. One of them fell to the pavement. Shameem Noor, a cashier at the Veselka restaurant about a block away, said he heard the blast and saw three or four people fall to the street. The four buildings contain 49 apartments, according to a spokesman for the American Red Cross at the scene. The ground floors were occupied by small eateries. A relocation center for displaced residents was set up in a nearby elementary school, the Red Cross spokesman said. Early on Friday morning, firefighters were battling a separate apartment blaze burning on the top floor of a six-story building some 3 miles (5 km) north, the New York Fire Department said. There were no immediate reports of injuries. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo and Ellen Wulfhorst; Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric Beech and Peter Cooney) ======= By MARC SANTORA and AL BAKERMARCH 26, 2015 Witness videos show the scene in the East Village after an explosion caused a fire in two buildings on Second Avenue, one of which collapsed soon afterward. Publish Date March 26, 2015. Photo by Victor J. Blue for The New York Times. A powerful explosion in the East Village on Thursday caused two buildings to collapse and ignited a large fire that quickly spread to neighboring buildings, leaving at least a dozen people injured, three of them critically. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, speaking at a news conference at the scene, said that “preliminary evidence suggests a gas-related explosion” was caused by plumbing and gas work being done at 121 Second Avenue, near Seventh Street. The explosion and ensuing fire destroyed that building and led to the collapse of an adjacent building, 123 Second Avenue. Two other buildings were damaged, and one of those buildings was still in danger of collapse, officials said. Mr. de Blasio said workers from the utility Consolidated Edison had been on the site about an hour before the explosion and had found the work being done there to be deficient. But the mayor said there were no calls reporting gas leaks before the explosion. Michael S. Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Edison, said several buildings on Second Avenue had been “undergoing renovations” since as far back as August. Continue reading the main story Slide Show Slide Show|11 Photos Buildings Collapse From Fire in East Village Buildings Collapse From Fire in East Village CreditRobert Stolarik for The New York Times “Based on records here, the building has had some work done inside; new gas service pipes; a lot of things; piping and such,” Mr. Clendenin said. The first reports the Fire Department received were for a building collapse, and witnesses described a dramatic scene, with residents of the buildings scrambling down fire escapes to escape the raging flames and others dashing out of the rubble as the walls collapsed around them. Niraj Desai, 36, a video game animator who works nearby, said he saw one woman stuck on a fire escape struggling to get the ladder unhooked. “This poor girl was stuck upstairs,” Mr. Desai said. “She was having a hard time. You could tell there was a lot of emotion going on. A bunch of guys were down at the bottom helping her get down.” Another man also made his way down the fire escape ladder before smoke started to pour from the building, he said. “It was pretty crazy, pretty fast,” Mr. Desai said. The authorities said that there were no initial reports of people missing and that those who were seriously injured seemed to have been hurt in the explosion. Blake Farber, 29, a film director, said he had smelled a lot of gas and watched as two people who appeared to be working at the site were frantically running between Sushi Park, the ground-floor restaurant, and the residential entrance. Seconds later, Mr. Farber said, he felt the blast and was enveloped by dust and smoke. “And then I saw a bunch of people running out of the restaurant — I saw a man crawling on the ground,” he said. “He was crawling and he turned around and his face was bloody. Then I saw some guy getting out of the basement, the metal grate, and he looked like a worker, who works in the kitchen. He was crawling out, his face was full of dust and his mouth was full of dust. His hands were sticking out and his arms kind of saying, help me.” Photo People shouted toward a man climbing up the ladder to the third floor. He climbed back down safely. Credit Michael Seto Photography Several people rushed to help as others screamed warnings to get away from the building. Continue reading the main story The authorities were closing down the surrounding streets, concerned that the building might entirely collapse and send debris flying. Con Ed said it was shutting off gas in the area as well. The blast happened just over a year after a gas explosion leveled two buildings on Park Avenue in East Harlem, killing eight people. Federal investigators found a crack in a Con Ed gas main near the site and a separation between that main and a smaller pipe that led to a building next to the two that were destroyed. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its final report, which will provide its conclusions about what caused the explosion last March. On Thursday, the fire seemed to build in intensity after neighbors heard what they described as a loud boom. With flames rising from the top of the buildings, firefighters battled the blaze and raced to keep it from spreading. The police said the chaos was reflected in several calls to 911, which began streaming in around 3:17 p.m. Several callers described hearing an explosion. Nathan Blaney was nearby at a bar on St. Marks Place when he heard an explosion. His hands still shaking minutes later, he recounted running to the corner and finding about six injured people laid out on the sidewalk. Continue reading the main story Recent Comments Michael S 16 minutes ago The City is full of hundred year old plus buildings that were tenements and other structures that were substandard when new. You can... ZoetMB 1 hour ago I think people are too ready to blame Con Edison just because they're an easy target. The article reports that work was being done on the... La123 1 hour ago So sorry to all of those injured and displaced from this horrible explosion and fire. I thank God that no one was killed. Thank you for... Mr. Blaney took photographs of the wreckage. The facade of the first floor of the building, which housed an Asian restaurant, was entirely blown out. Shards of glass reached the sidewalk across the street. Blood was splattered up and down the block and across the street. One man in a black apron had blood seeping from his head. Several other people were bleeding and covered with dust. Site of explosion MANHATTAN East Village DETAIL MANHATTAN By The New York Times; Image from Pictometry One woman was trapped on the building’s fire escape, apparently after climbing out of her apartment, Mr. Blaney said. She was stuck on the second floor, afraid to come down. So a pedestrian from the street — visible in pictures Mr. Blaney took — jumped onto the hanging ladder, climbed up and helped her descend to the sidewalk. “I was shaking like a leaf,” Mr. Blaney said. At 3:59 p.m. a loud rumble sounded and the lower facade of one of the buildings began moving. A moment later, it slid slowly to the sidewalk in a mix of glass and loose bricks. Heavy gray smoke filled the air, and a few moments later as the smoke began to lift, it was evident that no part of the building was left standing. Jordy Trachtenberg was smoking an electronic cigarette on St. Marks Place, trying to calm down after an explosion “rocked his apartment and made him jump” from his chair. Mr. Trachtenberg, who lives at 30 St. Marks Place, which faces the back of buildings on Second Avenue, said he thought the explosion was in his building, where he has lived for eight years. “I felt the ground shake underneath me, and then all this debris — plaster and glass — started pelting my windows,” he said. “I ran from my building when I saw the flames go up and my apartment filled with smoke. I couldn’t breathe. I started gagging.” Continue reading the main story 14 Comments “My first thought really was it was my home,” he added, “because we haven’t had gas for six months, and Con Ed was doing work outside today.” He shouted out to neighbors who passed by, asking them if they were all right. “Of course I know them,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone is O.K. St. Marks is the tightest community in New York.” Reporting was contributed by Joseph Burgess, Jim Dwyer, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Colin Moynihan, Benjamin Mueller, Sarah Maslin Nir, Patrick McGeehan, Tatiana Schlossberg, Kate Taylor and Alex Vadukul, and research by Susan C. Beachy.

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