Massive Gas Explosion in East Harlem: 7 Reported Dead, More Than 50 Injured, Many Missing

An explosion in the New York City neighborhood early Wednesday morning sent “people flying out the windows.”

Posted:
 
screen_shot_20140312_at_1.46.06_pm

Firefighters work to put out the blaze left in the wake of a gas explosion in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood, March 12, 2014.

YouTube screenshot

Updated March 13, 2014, 1:15 p.m.: The death toll in the East Harlem building explosion and collapse has risen to seven. USA Today reports that rescuers going through the devastation found four additional victims overnight, New York City Fire Department spokesman Danny Glover said.

"This is a difficult job, a challenging job," another fire department spokesman, Jim Long, said, according to USA Today, adding that it was "a very terrible and traumatic scene."

Two women believed to be in their 40s are included in the death toll. One of them has been identified by Hunter College as security officer Griselde Camacho, who had worked for the school for the past six years. 

Earlier:

A gas explosion in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood Wednesday morning sent "people flying out the windows," killing two women, injuring 22, leaving at least a dozen people unaccounted for and turning two buildings to rubble Wednesday morning, according to the New York City Fire Department and witnesses, the Daily News reports.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that the blast occurred at 9:31 a.m. and that the search continues for people still unaccounted for some three hours after the blast. A law-enforcement source told the newspaper that the cause appeared to have been a gas explosion.

Residents of a building neighboring the site complained of smelling gas at 9:13 a.m.—18 minutes before the explosion, Con Edison spokeswoman Elizabeth Matthews told the Daily News. Con Ed workers "arrived just after the explosion occurred," Matthews said.

"If we were here five minutes earlier, we may have had some fatalities among firefighters," Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano told the paper. "Not being here may have saved some lives."

A New York City Police Department source told the Daily News that nine to 12 people were missing.

Officials told the newspaper that some 250 firefighters were fighting the five-alarm blaze at the site, where two five-story buildings that contained a piano store, a church and close to 15 apartments stood before the blast.

"It's a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication," said the mayor.

Read more at the Daily News.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.