2 killed, 20 injured as buildings collapse in New York

2 killed, 20 injured as buildings collapse in New York

At least two persons were killed and 20 others injured today after two buildings collapsed following an explosion in the East Harlem neighbourhood of New York City, sparking a major fire that engulfed the area in thick smoke, officials said.

The two five-story buildings at the northwest corner of 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem collapsed in the explosion around 9 AM, they said.

Two persons - both women - were killed, 20 injured and several others missing after the blast that shattered windows and was felt several blocks away, they said.
President Barack Obama has been informed about the explosion and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is on the scene of the explosion and is taking stock of the situation.
Officials said residents at the buildings had complained of gas leak moments before the explosion.

CNN quoted law enforcement agents as saying they do not believe it was terror-related.

A spokeswoman for ConEd, which provides electric service in the city, said that the agency got a call from a resident in a building at the site of the explosion about gas leak.

"ConEd got a call from a resident inside 1652 Park Avenue complaining of gas at 9:13 am. A crew was dispatched to the location..They arrived just after the explosion occurred," ConEd spokeswoman Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement.

She added that ConEd crews are on location of the explosion, working with FDNY officials to "isolate the incident and keep the areas safe."

City officials said the buildings have been completely destroyed in the explosion.
The cause of the apparent blast is not known yet and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have responded to the scene out of an abundance of caution, authorities said.

The site of the explosion is close to a major commuter rail line that connects New York's suburbs to the city.

Metro North rail road system said it has suspended service of trains in and out of the Grand Central station.

Video footage from the scene of the explosion showed heavy smoke rising from the area as firefighters and police reached the spot to put the blaze out.

A man who was on the 15th floor of a building on 125th Street told CBS News he saw dark smoke billowing down several blocks.

The city's bomb squad is also responding to the situation as a precaution. Many residents in the neighbourhood reported hearing a loud explosion.

The New York Fire Department said on its Twitter feed that it is responding to a "5-Alarm" fire and "multiple dwelling explosion and collapse" at the building.
It has now deployed 44 units and 198 firefighters to the site of explosion that damaged property in the neighbourhood.

The building housed a piano store, a Spanish church and residential units. Federal authorities have not yet commented on the cause of the explosion.

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