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East Harlem, NYC Explosion, Building Collapse Kills 3, 9 Still Missing: Massive Gas Explosion at 116th Street and Park Avenue

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By Morgan Lee , Christian Post Reporter
March 12, 2014|11:21 pm

UPDATE 10:56 PM E.T. - Officials have confirmed that at least three people have died in the East Harlem building explosion that took place on Wednesday morning, and nine others are still missing.

It has been confirmed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak that sparked an explosion which leveled two buildings in New York City, authorities reported.

UPDATE: 5:55 PM E.T. – A storefront Spanish-speaking Evangelical church was destroyed in Wednesday's natural gas explosion that knocked down two buildings in East Harlem.

According to the Huffington Post, Spanish Christian Church was home to six apartment buildings that housed 20 congregation members, though two of their members are still missing since this morning's accident.

Carmen Vargas-Rosa, a lifelong member of the church, said that she smelled gas as early as Tuesday night when visiting family members in the neighborhood and reported it to owners of a deli on the corner, where she thought the smell had originated.

The 60-person congregation celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013.

East Harlem (Photo: Twitter / A Mother Life)

An building burns in East Harlem between 116th and Park Avenue on March, 12, 2014.

UPDATE 4:15p.m. E.T. – Two women are confirmed dead, 22 people injured and an unconfirmed number missing following a gas leak explosion in two Uppper Manhattan buildings at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Vibrations from the explosion knocked groceries off store shelves, obstructed visibility for cars and buses on the street, and sent debris and smoke into the air.

Of the 22 wounded, five are seriously hurt while 15 have suffered more moderate injuries such as cuts and broken bones. Two of them include on-duty FBI agents who were driving through East Harlem at the time, though they are not among those who sustained life-threatening injuries, reported Breaking 911.

Crews are continuing to clear debris from the Metro North line. According to the MTA, "of the four tracks on the Park Avenue viaduct, the two farthest from the explosion site have been restored to service."

Metro North service to Grand Central Station is closed until further notice as "the track configuration does not allow Hudson Line service to operate to Grand Central until more tracks are restored to service."

Because of the changes to service, the MTA is recommending that commuters delay their trips if possible.

UPDATE: 1:40 p.m. E.T. – The local Harlem Hospital has confirmed that it has received five patients with injuries related to Wednesday's East Harlem building explosion and collapse, including "one child with serious injuries, while another three adults are in stable condition and one adult walked in reporting hearing loss," ABC News reports.

Two other New York City hospitals, Mount Sinai Health and St. Luke's Hospital, are treating seven and one patients, respectively, though they expect more. The obliterated buildings were formerly home to six and nine residential units.

There are currently nine individuals unaccounted for. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that, thus far, there is no indication that those missing lost their lives in the accident.

A veteran from Operation Desert Storm told local news reporters that he saw the building lift several feet up in the air just prior to the explosion, which Fox 5 said suggests the presence of a high volume of gas.

UPDATE 12:36 p.m. ET – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the collapse of two East Harlem buildings as a "tragedy of the worst kind" because it had come with little warning or notice. A call came in at 9:13 a.m. to Con Ed reporting the a gas leak, but the mayor said that by the time the power company dispatched workers to the scene, the building had already exploded.

De Blasio also added that at least 18 have been injured in the accident and that there are 250 firefighters on scene attempting to put out the five-alarm blaze.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters that extinguishing the fire and clearing the scene will be a "long-extended operation."

First responders must first put out the blaze before they will be able to search the building's rubble for survivors.

De Blasio and Bratton were also joined by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who lives five blocks away from the destroyed building, and said that she was on her way to work when she heard the news of the explosion. She encouraged anyone who believes they may know someone from the building with whom they are unable to get in touch to call the city's 311 line.

UPDATE: 12:10 p.m. ET – Two women are confirmed dead after a building exploded and subsequently collapsed in East Harlem, Upper Manhattan, Wednesday morning. Seventeen people are currently in the hospital with injuries sustained in disaster, which may have been caused by a gas leak, though a Con Edison spokesperson has not confirmed the link.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is schedule to address the media within the next hour about the building collapse, which is the first major disaster of his mayoral term.

UPDATE 11:18 a.m. ET – A New York City official has confirmed that a massive Harlem building explosion and collapse has claimed at least one life and said he expects more, telling The New York Times that "there will be fatalities."

A pastor of a storefront church on the bottom floor of the building has said he has been unable to get in touch with four people he knows in the building and others residents have told local news reporters that they have been unable to get in touch with other residents.

The collapse, which occured around 10:20 a.m. ET - following the explosion at about 9.20 a.m. - has knocked out all of the buildings' apartments, a piano stores and a storefront church, which were on the first floor, according to Fox 5.

An NYPD detective has said that a 5-storey residential building no longer appears to be there. Con Ed has also confirmed that it was called to respond to a possible gas leak just before the explosion took place on Wednesday morning. Con Ed emergency workers were dispatched to the address but did not get there before the explosion took place.

The building collapse has reportedly injured at least 16 people.

MORE: See BEFORE and AFTER PHOTOS of East Harlem, NYC Building Explosion Location - CLICK HERE

UPDATE 10.28 a.m. ET - A residential building in East Harlem, Upper Manhattan has reportedly collapsed, leaving a scene local news reporters have described of "reminiscent of 9/11." Response workers were in the vicinity at the time of the collapse, but all have been accounted for, according to reports.

One resident of the neighborhood told Fox 5 that several of his friends had felt the explosion as far away as 168th St.

Masks have been distributed in the area, because of the level of debris and smoke in the area. Metro North has been suspended into Grand Central on this line until further notice.

A live stream news coverage of the building explosion and collapse can be seen by clicking here.

MORE: See BEFORE and AFTER PHOTOS of East Harlem, NYC Building Explosion Location - CLICK HERE

A building in East Harlem, Upper Manhattan exploded at 9:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday in New York City.

Fox 5 has reported that at least four people have suffered injuries related to the explosion, which eye witnesses on social media have described as "massive."

The FDNY has declared the explosion a three-alarm fire "in a residential building with a structural collapse and fire. Exposure problems and a large gas leak are reported."

The building, which sits between 116th and 117th St. on Park Ave., is close to a Metro North track that authorities have asked be shut down.

The explosion also sent glass, brick and other building material debris into the street and surrounding areas.

Early reports indicated that the fire had completely consumed the building, with smoke spreading as far as the East River.

The office of City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is also located in this area.

MORE: See BEFORE and AFTER PHOTOS of East Harlem, NYC Building Explosion Location - CLICK HERE

 

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