AN EXPLOSION CAUSED by a gas leak killed two people and injured at least 18 others in East Harlem, New York City today.
The blast destroyed two five-story buildings before the New York City Fire Department sent 44 units and 198 members to the site in Upper Manhattan.
Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the explosion was caused by a gas leak.
Sidewalks for blocks around were littered with broken glass from shattered store front and apartment windows. Witnesses say the blast near Park Avenue and 116th Street was so powerful it knocked groceries off the shelves of nearby stores.
Police, some wearing gas masks and medical masks, handed out medical masks to residents and onlookers because of the thick white smoke that shrouded the area.
Eoin Hayes, 26, said the explosion shook his entire apartment building in Harlem at about 9.30am. He ran to the window and saw flames consuming one building and smoke rising into the air.
“I was in my bedroom and the explosion went off, it kind of shook the whole building,” Hayes said. “You could feel the vibrations going through the building.”
Hayes lives less than ten blocks from where the explosion happened. He said the fire consumed one building and then moved on to another building adjacent to it, though about 40 minutes later the flames had subsided and there was mostly just smoke. Both buildings appeared to be residential.
“I ran to the window and saw the fire and the smoke going up and the sirens start,” Hayes said.
The explosion occurred very close to elevated Metro-North commuter railroad tracks. Metro-North service was suspended to and from Grand Central on all three train lines while employees remove debris from the tracks.