Witnesses say they heard an explosion before the building caught on fire+ READ ARTICLE
At least 12 people were injured, three critically, when a building collapsed in New York City on Thursday afternoon, sparking a major fire that spread to three neighboring buildings, officials said. Witnesses in the densely populated East Village neighborhood reported hearing an explosion before the building caught fire.
About 250 firefighters and EMS workers responded to the scene around 3:20 p.m., local time. Firefighters searched the buildings before the first one collapsed 15 minutes later, forcing them out. At least 12 people were taken to local hospitals, according to an FDNY spokeswoman. No deaths or missing persons have been reported as of 6:15 p.m. The area has been evacuated.
In a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said preliminary reports suggest that plumbing or gas work was being done in a building on Second Avenue before the explosion took place.
The buildings near the corner of Second Avenue and 7th Street contain both residences and businesses, including a sushi restaurant and a popular late-night Belgian fry shop called Pommes Frites.
Consolidated Edison is shutting down the gas in the impacted area and has sent a team to investigate the cause of the explosion, according to a Con Ed spokesman. The company’s president said at the news conference that Con Ed workers who had visited the building earlier in the afternoon to inspect work being done by a private company found that work unacceptable and recommended not introducing gas. The explosion happened about an hour later.
The city’s Office of Emergency Management sent out an alert telling people in the area to close their windows and stay away from the smoke. The smell of smoke spread at least as far as midtown Manhattan, a couple miles away.
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