Three dead, at least 27 injured after building collapse in East Harlem

Three people have died after a gas leak caused an explosion Wednesday morning, collapsing two Manhattan buildings, officials said. At least 27 people — including three children — were injured and at least nine individuals are still missing. 

The de Blasio administration confirmed late Wednesday that officials are still treating two serious, life-threatening injuries and five serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Twenty others suffered minor injuries.

Two of the three deaths are confirmed to be women. Doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital confirmed that they treated three children from the incident, at least two of whom were already released. At least one person with serious head trauma remained at the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived at the scene in the early afternoon and thanked the first responders, describing it as an incredibly fast response while cautioning that the situation was still developing.

“This is a tragedy of the worst kind because we had no indication so that we could save people,” de Blasio said.

The mayor declined to give any numbers of how many individuals are missing after this morning’s explosion, but added that NYPD has a list of persons they are tracking down.

Friends and family members looking for loved ones that might have been affected by the blast should call 311, he said.

“Suffice it to say that every effort is being expended to located everyone of these individuals,” de Blasio said.

New York City Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano told reporters earlier in the day that the building was in a “precarious position,” and that firefighters would concentrate on extinguishing the blaze before removing debris to makes sure no other persons are under the rubble.

No new victims were found under the rubble by Wednesday evening, but some areas around the buildings remain inaccessible after sinkhole opened up after an water main break likely caused by the explosion.

The NYPD and fire department responded to the scene at 9:30 a.m. The affected buildings were 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, which house apartments. Thirty-nine FDNY units and 250 firefighters arrived on the scene early this morning, and dozens of pieces of heavy machinery have been deployed to help control the situation.

Cassano said that there were a number of people who might be trapped in the rubble and that that a thorough search of the scene would start soon.

Con Edison received a call from a resident at 1646 Park Avenue about a gas odor that was coming from their apartment.

“They smelled gas near the window in their master bedroom so it may have come from outside,” a spokesperson said. The call came in at 9:13 a.m. and they dispatched a crew to the scene two minutes later. By the time they arrived, the explosion had occurred.

Con Edison executive John McAvoy did not verify any previous complaints but confirmed that the call reporting the leak came from the building adjacent to the source of the explosion at 1644 Park Ave.

“We do not have any confirmation or indication of gas links prior to 9:13 this morning,” McAvoy said Wednesday afternoon.

Reinaldo Rosario, 48, who lives down the block told Metro, “It was loud. I thought it was our building because the building shook.”

Commuter trains were stopped on nearby tracks because of the debris on the rails and passengers were ordered off the Metro-North Railroad cars at the Fordham stop in the Bronx, passengers said.

For an updated map of street closures in the area, click here.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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