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3 buildings collapse after explosion

By Agencies in New York City ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-28 08:12:43

Four apartment buildings in New York caught fire and three collapsed after an apparent gas explosion on Thursday, injuring 19 people, the authorities said.

The blast, shortly after 3 pm local time (3 am on Friday, China time), sent flames leaping into the sky and rocked the East Village residential area in Manhattan.

Diners fled and bystanders helped one another to escape the midafternoon blast as flames shot into the air, witnesses said. Passers-by were hit by debris and flying glass, and bloodied victims received assistance as they sat on sidewalks and lay on the ground.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion inside one of the buildings that collapsed was to blame. A plumber was connecting a gas service upgrade, and inspectors for utility company Con Edison had been there, company President Craig Ivey said. The work failed the inspection, partly because a space for new meters was not big enough, Con Edison said.

De Blasio said no one had reported a gas leak before the blast. Con Edison said it had examined the gas mains in the building on Wednesday and found no leaks.

A Fire Department spokesman said three of the four buildings that caught fire had collapsed or partially collapsed. Of the 19 people hurt, four were in critical condition.

The four buildings contain 49 apartments, according to a spokesman for the American Red Cross at the scene. The ground floors were occupied by small restaurants.

A relocation center for displaced residents was set up in a nearby elementary school, the spokesman said.

Moishe Perl, 64, who owns Moishe's Bake Shop nearby, said he heard an explosion, ran outside and saw the lower floors of a building start to crumble.

"Most of the people were running out of the building and climbing down the fire escape," while others were helped out of windows by passers-by, he said.

Ben Mackinnon, 28, said he was drinking coffee in a cafe when he heard the explosion from across the street. "The explosion was big enough that the door of the cafe blew open," Mackinnon said.

He saw several bloodied men emerge from a sushi restaurant where the explosion appeared to originate. One of them fell to the pavement.

The explosion and fire happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem, also in Manhattan, killed eight people and injured about 50. A US National Transportation Safety Board report released last week said a leak reported just before the deadly blast may have come from a three-year-old section of plastic pipe rather than a 127-year-old cast-iron segment that came under scrutiny in the immediate aftermath.

Reuters - AP

 3 buildings collapse after explosion

Smoke rises from the scene of a fire and building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York City on Thursday. Flames and black smoke billowed from the facade and roof of the building near several New York University buildings. New York Police Department / Associated Press

(China Daily 03/28/2015 page11)

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