An explosion today in Manhattan’s East Harlem caused a piano store and an evangelical church to crumble to pieces, leaving a grim scene behind. The buildings, which were located near 116th Street and Park Avenue, also contained fifteen residential units. The incident was reported to be deafeningly loud, like a bomb. One witness described the feeling in his room nearby in the Taft Houses as similar to experiencing an earthquake and a car crash at once. The force of the explosion caused debris to spew onto elevated Metro North train tracks across the street, resulting in temporary suspension of service. Residential and commercial building windows nearby were shattered to pieces. People ran into the streets and gathered there in crowds. Smoke and flames poured out of the wreckage while first responders dug into the bricks, looking for survivors.
Two fatalities and twenty-eight injuries have been documented. The injuries range from minor to severe. One individual reported hearing loss and another individual seems to have suffered a brain injury. Almost two dozen of the injured are being treated at Mount Sinai Hospital. A handful are being treated at Harlem Hospital. Other hospitals with patients with injuries from this incident include NY Presbyterian, Weill Cornell, and Metropolitan Hospital. Numerous people remain missing at this time.
The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined. However, a Park Avenue resident notified Con Edison of a gas leak at 1652 Park Avenue at 9:13 A.M., approximately fifteen minutes prior to the explosion. The caller specified that the odor may have been coming from the exterior of the building. Con Ed’s work truck did not arrive at the scene until after the explosion. An eight inch low pressure gas main services this area; its condition is presently unknown.