NEW YORK (AP) New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says people are still missing after an explosion leveled two apartment buildings, killing two people and injuring 18 others.
De Blasio says: "There are a number of missing individuals." He suggests some may have fled to safety and says the city is expending every effort to locate the people who are still unaccounted for.
The mayor urged worried relatives to call 311. A hotline was being set up.
The mayor says Con Edison is shutting down all gas mains going into the building.
He says a gas leak was reported to the utility 15 minutes before the explosion. The explosion occurred before the Con Edison team arrived
|Many took to Twitter and began posting pictures of smoke rising from the area. Their photos via CBS are below
Residents heard a large explosion around 9 a.m. Wednesday.
One five-story building was reduced to rubble, and a second building also is heavily damaged. Sidewalks for blocks around are littered with broken glass from shattered storefront and apartment windows. Witnesses say the blast was so powerful it knocked groceries off the shelves of nearby stores.
Sidewalks for blocks around were littered with broken glass from shattered storefront and apartment windows.
Witnesses say the blast neat Park Avenue and 116th Street was so powerful it knocked groceries off the shelves of nearby stores.
A neighboring building was severely damaged. The cause of the blast was unclear.
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 9:30 a.m. 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 10 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.
The fire department said it sent nearly 170 members to the scene.