NEW YORK – A massive explosion apparently connected to gas and plumbing work at an East Village building sparked a vast seven-alarm fire that has spread to four buildings, leaving at least 12 people injured and three seriously, according to officials.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday afternoon the explosion appeared to have been related to plumbing and gas work at 121 Second Avenue. He also said there were no reports of any missing people.
Con Ed was at the building at 2 p.m., an hour before the explosion, to inspect work being done there, and that work did not pass inspection. Con Ed President Craig Ivey, quoted by the AP, said the crews were there to evaluate a planned installation of a second meter in a now-collapsed building where construction was going on Thursday. The meter didn’t pass the inspection, meaning it wasn’t ready for gas to be introduced, AP reported.
The massive blast tore through a five-story building at 121 E. 2nd Avenue between 7th Street and St. Marks Place. It ignited the structure and three adjacent building — 119, 123, and 125 — as the flames tore through the roof. The fire completely gutted the residential building with the Japanese restaurant Sushi Park on the first floor, leaving only the brick exterior as the floors collapsed on top of each other into a heap of rubble.
Nearly 250 firefighters went to the site of the explosion at 3:17p.m., according Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. Gas was shut down in the area.
“To the best of our knowledge they were working on the gas,” Nigro said.
A relocation center has been established for displaced residents at P.S. 63. Officials urge residents to be mindful of hazards from smoke in the air, and to keep windows closed. Residents are urged to call 911 if they smell any gas.
A witness told PIX11 that shortly following the blast a bleeding man was seen lying unconscious in the street in front of the building, and several people wearing kitchen-style aprons — some with visible injuries — could be seen trying to pull people to safety.
A woman walking to a nearby Starbucks described the scene, “I was walking down 9th Street toward 2nd Avenue when I felt the ground shake.”
“We heard a loud explosion,” recalled the owner of a nearby store. “It felt like a bomb blast or something, it was really loud.”
A video taken shortly after the blast showed pedestrians helping a woman who was trapped on a fire escape down to safety.
The building is located close to NYU and in a neighborhood bustling with bars and restaurants. The popular Pommes Frites Belgian french fry eatery is located next door.