A Building ‘Exploded’ in the Middle of Harlem Today; At Least One Dead with Toll Expected to Rise

A building exploded and collapsed in Harlem this morning, injuring at least 17 people and killing one. According to a senior official on the scene, several residents are missing and the death toll is likely to rise. From the New York Times:

“This is an occupied building, there were people living there, we have people missing,” the senior official said. “There was a complete collapse; the fire is still going so we can’t make a search. There will be fatalities.”

The building, located at 1644 Park Avenue, is simply “gone” according to the NYPD, while FDNY officials say 39 units and 168 firefighters have responded to the developing five-alarm fire. Meanwhile, all Metro North trains have been suspended. (As you can see from the FDNY photo above, the fire is located right beside train tracks.)

Witnesses say the explosions first occurred around 9 a.m. From Buzzfeed:

“It sounded like the Metro North blew up, it scared the shit out of me,” a woman living across the street told BuzzFeed.

Residents close to the collapsed buildings are reporting hearing three separate loud booms with the first one happening as early as 9 a.m.

“It was an explosion—BOOM—I was in KFC. It shook the whole building,” neighborhood resident Ismael Ruiyz said. “I saw a woman come out with a baby covered in debris.”

Other witnesses described seeing the building “mushroom.” It’s early, but it appears the explosion could have been the result of a gas leak. A neighbor called Con Ed early this morning complaining of a gas smell; by the time crews arrived on the scene, the building had already exploded.

The New York Daily News reports that people in the area had smelled gas for “weeks.” (If this was preventable… fuck.)

A loud explosion inside a five-story building on Park Ave. at E. 116th St. sent “people flying out the window,” killing one person, injuring 17 and leaving two buildings in rubble Wednesday morning, according to the Fire Department and witnesses.

“For weeks we’ve been smelling gas,” said Ashley Rivera, 21, holding back tears. “We saw people flying out of the window. … Those are my neighbors.”

The pictures and videos from the scene paint a really frightening image. Smoke can be seen from as far south as Midtown.