Flats collapse blamed on gas blast

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Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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An apartment block’s collapse in a fiery burst of rubble appears to have been caused by a gas-related explosion, New York authorities have said.

The flames spread to nearby buildings, scattering debris across surrounding streets in the heart of Manhattan’s fashionable East Village. At least a dozen people were injured, four critically.

Orange flames billowed and smoke could be seen and smelled for miles after the blaze, in an area of old tenement buildings that are home to students and long-time residents in an area near New York University and Washington Square Park.

About 250 firefighters battled the fires and a second building was “in danger of possible collapse”. A total of four buildings were affected.

The area was evacuated and the city’s health department advised residents to keep their windows closed because of the smoke.

Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, ran outside when he heard “a huge boom”.

“Already there was smoke everywhere” when he saw the building, he said. “The flames were coming out from the roof. The fire was coming out of every window.”

Items from a ground-floor sushi restaurant were blown into a street and the explosion was so forceful it blew the door off a cafe. Rubble, glass and debris littered pavements.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio said the blast appeared to have been caused by plumbing and gas work inside one building. A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade and inspectors from utility firm Con Edison had been there to check on a planned meter installation about an hour before the fire, company president Craig Ivey said.

But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters was not big enough and the inspectors said gas could not be introduced to that part of the building.

Mr De Blasio said it did not appear that anyone was missing. “We are praying that no other individuals are injured and that there are no fatalities,” he said.

He said no one reported a gas leak before the blast. Con Edison said it surveyed all the gas mains on the block on Wednesday and found no leaks.

The fire happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem killed eight people and injured about 50.

Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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