A powerful explosion rocked lower Manhattan on Thursday, causing two apartment buildings in East Village to burst into flames and partially collapse. The blast occurred in 121 Second Ave., igniting a seven-alarm fire that soon engulfed the adjoining building, 123 Second Ave., as well. The fire also damaged other neighboring structures.
So far, the authorities have reported 19 injuries – including four firefighters and one emergency medical worker who declined medical attention at the scene. Four of them are in critical condition.
The explosion is being called “gas-related” as some plumbing and gas work was underway inside 121 Second Ave. A utility crew was evaluating the newly installed gas meter in the building around 2 p.m., shortly before the 3 p.m. blast.
"The new installation did not pass our inspection at that time," said Consolidated Edison President Craig Ivey. “Meaning it wasn't ready for gas service to resume.”
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with every one of them and their families,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference. "And of course, we are praying that no other individuals are found injured, and that there are no fatalities."
He also explained that the preliminary evidence “suggests a gas-related explosion,” though added that the "investigation is ongoing."
Both buildings have a row of street-level restaurants.
During the chaos, an off-duty FDNY firefighter even scaled the burning building through the thick smoke to look for people who might have been trapped inside, subsequently rescuing a woman and saving her life.
The dramatically heroic moment can be seen in the video posted below: