A surprise explosion in Harlem early Wednesday morning leveled two buildings, and has left at least seven people dead and close to 60 injured.
The explosion demolished the 15 apartments located in the two building, as well as the Spanish Christian Church and a piano store at street level.
New Yorkers are used to loud noises but this explosion turned more than a few heads. The power of the blast was so strong it could be felt more than a mile away. The blast also knocked out windows in nearby buildings and sent debris cascading down onto nearby streets. The falling rubble trapped people in their cars and apartments and temporarily shut down Metro-North trains in the area.
Dozens of rescuers, including firefighters and police, continue to hunt for survivors or victims buried in the rubble of the two adjoining buildings at 116th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem.
While some likened the scene to a smaller scale 9/11, terrorism was quickly ruled out as the culprit because a) it’s East Harlem and b) there was a strong smell of gas. In fact, a nearby resident called Con Edison to complain about the smell of gas minutes prior to the explosion – but the gas crews didn’t get there until after the blast.
“This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Minus that 15 minute window where the building reeked like gas.