An explosion in Harlem yesterday killed at least seven, the city reported today, and at least nine more remain missing. The death toll is up from two yesterday, and more information is coming to light on the massive infrastructure failure that caused the dramatic blast.
The explosion, authorities said, was being treated as a gas leak despite the utilities company Consolidated Edison not yet having the ability to investigate the area, with first responders continuing to pick apart the ruins of two buildings in search of survivors. Authorities suspect that a water main break in the area earlier this year could have also damaged the gas pipes.
The Times reports that, in the immediate aftermath of the blast, first responders had to struggle to tear New Yorkers away from the remains of the building, as passersby rushed toward the decay to help pull people out. They are still currently searching to find some of the missing, including a pregnant woman. They must excavate the area and account for all the missing before they can move on to investigate what went wrong with the city’s infrastructure.
At a press conference yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the press that authorities were not aware of the danger until fifteen minutes before the explosion, and arrived on the scene just as the buildings collapsed. Some interviewed who lived in the building and survived report that they could smell the gas leaking from the night before; one couple had to sleep with the windows open to keep the gas smell from suffocating them. No one seems to have alerted the authorities until the morning after, however.