Wednesday morning a an explosion caused by what authorities are describing as a gas leak, burned and collapsed two buildings in East Harlem in northern Manhattan. Responders and rescuers are still digging through the rubble-covered intersection at 116th Street and for most of the day smoke covered much of the neighborhood.
Here is what you need to know right now:
1. At 9:30 a.m., An Explosion Rocked East Harlem
Exclusive photo up close of scene of Manhattan/ Harlem explosion fire. pic.twitter.com/NoKzBmo7hy
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 12, 2014
Accord to PIX11, the Explosion Appears to Be Coming from 116th Street and Park Avenue. Eye witnesses say that the explosion blew out windows on the entire block.
It was an explosion that collapsed the two 5-story buildings.
2. It’s Was a Five Alarm Fire & the Fire Department Responded in Force
The fire department received the call shortly after witnesses heard an explosion in East Harlem at around 9:30 a.m. The fire was upgraded from a three to four, and then to five alarm fire with the FDNY reported that almost 200 fire fighters are on the scene.
MAN 5-ALARM 1646 PARK AVENUE, MULTIPLE DWELLING EXPLOSION AND COLLAPSE,
— FDNY (@FDNY) March 12, 2014
3. A Gas Leak, Not Terrorism, Is the Cause
Despite the initial fears of journalists, there does not appear to be any evidence that this explosion was the cause of terrorism.
Bill Leopold, tweeting from nearby, says that he is hearing unconfirmed reports that the explosion was caused by gas. Witnesses also told Fox News that that they smelled gas in the building as early as last night. In fact, the New York Post reports that residents say it, “always smells of gas around here.”
Mayor De Blasio said during his press conference today that Con Edison was called about a gas leak and was on their way to the site at the time of the explosion.
ABC is also reporting that Con Edison responded by shutting off gas to the building.
4. Metro North Commuter Trains Have Been Suspended
— FDNY (@FDNY) March 12, 2014
Metro North commuter trains have been suspended until further notice due to debris from the explosion on the track, according to the New York Post. Metro North trains travel down Park Avenue in Harlem to and from Connecticut and Westchester.
Eye witnesses say there is far too much debris for the trains to travel over the tracks.
Several streets are also closed in the area. According to Total Traffic NYC the following streets are closed:
Park Avenue Northbound between 110th and 117th, and southbound between 125th and 115th, and 116th street between Madison and Lexington.
5. At Least 8 are Dead and 69 Are Injured
NBC New York is now reporting that eight people are dead, and according to the New York Times, the latest figures from the fire department say at least 69 are hurt. There are also still 3 people unaccounted for and believed to be trapped in the rubble, reports NBC New York.
The most recent death confirmations have come from rescuers as they continue to comb through the rubble. Three of the victims who either died or were found dead yesterday have been identified as 21-year-old Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, Griselde Camacho, 44, and 67-year-old Carmen Tanco. Authorities are still trying to identify the other 4 bodies.
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) March 12, 2014
Eye witnesses say there are dozens of ambulances heading to and from the scene of the explosion, fire, and a two-building collapse. Someone on the scene told Fox News that among the injuries were shrapnel injuries from the explosion. Firefighters have also brought in the respiratory health equipment. First responders have been handing out respiratory masks to people in the area due to debris in the area.