NEW YORK (CNN) — At least two people were killed Wednesday after a massive explosion and raging fire in Manhattan’s East Harlem, authorities said.
Two buildings collapsed, according to firefighters at the scene.
At least 16 people were injured. Four of the injured were taken to Harlem Hospital, including a child in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The cause was unclear but Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said the utility received a call about a gas leak at 9:13 a.m. The call came from a resident at one of the newer buildings on Park Avenue. The utility dispatched a truck two minutes later but it arrived after the explosion, the spokesman said.
Clouds of dark smoke rose over the largely residential area of redbrick tenements and small businesses after the explosion, which some residents said sounded like a bomb.
Hundreds of firefighters responded, many spraying water on the roaring blaze from ladders, others furiously pulling bricks from the collapsed buildings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton arrived at the scene before noon Wednesday.
Metro North commuter rail service was suspended as debris from the explosion landed on the elevated tracks across the street, authorities said.
“I heard a big explosion,” said a resident who identified herself as Angelica. “I didn’t know what was going on. … My neighbors came banging on my door, telling me to get out. I guess they were evacuating the building. And I couldn’t get out. My door was jammed. Everything on my windowsill fell. I guess the impact of the explosion jammed the door as well.”
She added, “It was extremely loud. I couldn’t even explain it to you, if I could. It was just so loud. It woke me out of my sleep. That’s how loud it was.”
Molley Mills, who lives nearby, said at the time of the explosion her building rumbled as if the subway was passing beneath it.
“I went outside my terrace and there was smoke pouring out,” she said.
The New York police bomb squad responded to the scene, according to a law enforcement source.
“I hope there is no one in there, a worker at a nearby flea market said. “It’s just rubble.”
Dark smoke could be seen billowing for a three-block radius as hundreds of rescue officials descended on the scene.
CNN first learned of this story via Twitter.
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