Death toll continues to rise in deadly NYC gas explosion | News | DW | 13.03.2014
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Death toll continues to rise in deadly NYC gas explosion

Rescuers are still searching for people left missing after a deadly explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in New York City. The blast, which was caused by a gas leak, occurred in East Harlem.

Authorities now say at least six people were killed and over 60 injured on Wednesday when two residential buildings collapsed in New York City following an explosion. Nine people remain unaccounted for. The incident occurred in the Manhattan neighborhood of East Harlem, which lies less than a mile north of Central Park.

At roughly 9:30 local time (1330 UTC), the explosion ripped through neighboring apartment buildings at 116th Street and Park Avenue. Both structures caught fire and subsequently caved in on themselves. Fire fighters reportedly put out the blaze by approximately 2 p.m. local time (1800 UTC) and were still searching for over a dozen missing people into the evening.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident a "tragedy of the worst kind" and told reporters a number of people were still unaccounted for.

"There was a major explosion that destroyed two buildings. The explosion was caused by a gas leak," de Blasio said.

A New York utility company - Con Edison - said that a local resident reported smelling gas roughly 15 minutes prior to the incident.

"A resident reported smelling gas inside the apartment building at 1652 Park Avenue but indicated the odor may have been coming from outside the building," company spokesman Bob McGee said, adding that the utiltiy company team was not able to reach the site until after the explosion.

"Our crews are checking our gas lines and working to isolate any leaks that they find and they're working closely with the [New York Fire Department] to make the area safe," McGee added.

Mainline train services running in and out of Grand Central terminal were suspended for part of the day while workers cleaned debris from the tracks.

tj,kms/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)