A pair of East Harlem buildings on Park Avenue collapsed this morning following an apparent gas explosion, killing at least seven people and injuring 30 more. Nine people are currently unaccounted for. Speaking from the scene of the devastation, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the disaster “a tragedy of the worst kind.”
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The buildings that collapsed were 1644 Park Avenue and 1646 Park Avenue. The building at 1646 Park Avenue, a five-story structure, housed a piano store, Absolute Piano, with apartments above. The Real Deal has learned that the building is owned by the ex-wife of piano maker Carl Demler. The ground floor of the five-story 1644 Park was home to Spanish Christian Church, with apartments above. A call to the church revealed that the phone line was not in operation. The Daily News is reporting that area residents reported smelling gas in the vicinity for the past few weeks. Mayor de Blasio confirmed earlier reports that a Con Edison crew was investigating a possible gas leak in the area right before the explosion occurred.
Exclusive photo up close of scene of Manhattan/ Harlem explosion fire. pic.twitter.com/NoKzBmo7hy
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 12, 2014
The five-alarm fire drew 250 firefighters to the scene, according to de Blasio. The buildings are just a few feet from elevated railroad tracks operated by Metro North. Debris from the buildings fell on the tracks, leading to the suspension of Metro-North train service. — TRD