New York City explosion leaves at least two dead, more than a dozen injured

BY Justin Scuiletti  March 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM EST
New York City Fire Department firefighters at the scene of an explosion and building collapse at Park Avenue and East 116th Street March 12, 2014 in the Harlem section of New York. A residential building exploded and collapsed on Wednesday, sparking a serious fire and engulfing the area in thick smoke, officials said. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

New York City Fire Department firefighters at the scene of an explosion and building collapse at Park Avenue and East 116th Street March 12, 2014 in the Harlem section of New York. A residential building exploded and collapsed on Wednesday, sparking a serious fire and engulfing the area in thick smoke, officials said. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

An explosion and subsequent collapse of two apartment buildings Wednesday morning in New York City has left at least two dead and more than a dozen more injured.

Residents near the apartment buildings — located near Park Avenue at East 116th Street in East Harlem — reported hearing an explosion around 9:30 a.m. EDT. Firefighters were on scene by 9:33 a.m.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference shortly after noon that a gas leak was the believed cause of the explosion. Con Edison spokesperson Bob McGee told the AP that a resident of a nearby building had smelled gas prior to the incident. De Blasio added that workers are in the process of shutting down all the gas lines that run into the buildings.

The mayor said that 250 firefighters are battling what is now considered a five-alarm fire at the scene. Once the fire is put out, FDNY crews will begin a search for missing persons. “We’re spending every effort to locate each and every loved one,” de Blasio said.

“This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication of time,” the mayor said. “We’ve lost two people already.

The explosion also sent debris hurtling onto nearby Metro North railroad tracks, causing all trains to and from Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal to be halted.