New York: A thunderous explosion in Harlem, New York sent ‘people flying out the windows,’ killing two women, injuring 20 and leaving two buildings in rubble yesterday, according to the Fire Department and witnesses.
“For weeks we’ve been smelling gas,” said Ashley Rivera, holding back tears. “We saw people flying out of the windows. Those are my neighbours.”
Gone up in smoke: Firefighters work hard to contain the blaze and help those who are believed to be trapped inside. Bystanders were covered in soot owing to the blast and were asked to wear masks to protect themselves. Pics/AFP, PTI
A law enforcement source said the cause appeared to have been a gas explosion that leveled the two five-storey buildings.
Residents of a building neighbouring the site had complained of gas at 9:13 am — 18 minutes before the explosion.
Angelica Aguiler (25), said she was asleep in her sixth-floor apartment when she felt the building quake.
“The window exploded. I was trying to get out but the door wouldn’t open,” said Aguiler, describing her terror as neighbours tried in vain to help her escape.
A Fire Department spokesman said 200 firefighters were on the scene.
A school behind the buildings was evacuated.
A firefighter on the scene said that a building at the corner of East 117th Stree and Park Avenue had become unstable as a result of the collapse.
Mustafa Shohataa (27), was standing on the south side of East 116th Street when he felt a wave of air followed by two explosions.
“I felt it like a breeze and the noises came and stuff started falling from the sky,” Shohataa said. “Smoke filled the street and people were running. I thought a train came off the tracks... It felt like the world shook.”
Mitch Abreu (23), who was working nearby, said he heard two explosions that shook the shop.
“It was loud, like boom, boom!” he said. “It rocked the whole block. A window blew out of the other shop down the street. It looked like the towers all over again. People covered in dust and covering their mouths.”