The explosion happened on 116th Street and Park just after 9:30 a.m., according to officials. One building collapsed and another was heavily damaged, according to rescue crews. A five-alarm fire broke out at the site of the explosion.
The New York City Fire Department sent 168 firefighters from 39 units to respond to the fire and building collapse.
In addition to the two fatalities, at least 18 people were injured as clouds of dark smoke rose over the residential neighborhood of red-brick tenements, fire officials said. There were reports that people are trapped in the collapsed building, according to WPIX-TV.
A Con Edison official told CNN the utility company had a call of a possible gas leak shortly before the explosion. The official said the company received a call at 9:13 a.m. from someone saying they smelled gas. The official said Con Edison dispatched a truck two minutes later, but the truck had not arrived at the scene when the explosion happened and no Con Ed crews were injured.
Metro North commuter rail service, which runs along the site of the blast on Park Avenue, was suspended, officials said.
Read more at PIX11.com.