Two missing, 22 hurt in NY buildings collapse
Two people were missing Friday from a sushi restaurant after an explosion flattened three buildings and ravaged a fourth property in New York’s East Village, injuring 22 people, officials said.
The explosion blew the front off a commercial and residential property on Second Avenue on Thursday, minutes after the owner of the restaurant smelled gas and telephoned the landlord.
The gas-fueled fire grew rapidly, eventually bringing down three properties and badly damaging a fourth, with the fire still smoldering Friday.
If investigators conclude gas was the cause, it would be the second such explosion to bring down residential property in New York in a year after eight people were killed in Harlem in 2014.
“We have two people that we know for sure are unaccounted for and there may be more,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Police said witness statements put both missing people in the sushi restaurant at the time of the explosion. Local media identified them as a young man on a date and a busboy.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said it would take a week to remove the debris.
“We will treat the scene as if people are there,” he said.
In total 22 people were injured, including six uniformed personnel and four civilians in a critical condition, officials said.
De Blasio said three buildings had collapsed and the fourth was very seriously damaged by fire. Besides the sushi restaurant, a shop selling Belgian frites was also destroyed.
“The strong assumption is it’s a gas explosion,” the mayor said, adding it was possible that a gas line had been “inappropriately accessed internally by people in the building.”
Engineer inspectors from power company Con Edison examined piping in one of the buildings earlier in the day. Fifteen minutes after they left, the owner of the sushi restaurant smelled
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