Although rescue workers continue to search through the rubble from the explosion and collapse of an apartment building in Harlem, NYC, on Wednesday, March. 12., at least 7 people have been confirmed dead, 70 injured, 2 critically, and others reported still missing.
The explosion, said to be caused by a gas leak, was felt at least 15 blocks away from the blast and may have even registered a seismic reading at Columbia University, located at least 1.5 miles away. According to residents in the area, complaints of gas odor were being reported to the Con Edison power company, who said that its workers were responding to the reports at the 1652 Park Avenue apartment building. Con Ed reports the call came in at approximately 9:13 a.m. and that crews were dispatched minutes later, but arrived on the scene only minutes after the explosion.
The explosion prompted the suspension of the Metro-North service into and out of Manhattan evacuating all passengers at its nearby 116 street railway station. Witnesses walking in and around the immediate area reported feeling the ground shake, while those in apartments nearby felt their floors tremble and windows rattle.
Ramona Adorno, owner of Bohemia International, a beauty salon located approximately 6 blocks away, on 111 street and Madison Avenue, said the salon “trembled, and equipment was knocked down to the ground,” adding that smoke and debris filtered its way through the windows, at which point she had no choice but to evacuate her clients.
In the first major emergency since he took office, newly elected Mayor Bill De Blasio, who arrived at the scene at around 11:30 a.m., described the scenario as "a tragedy of the worst kind," adding that the 5 alarm fire response to the explosion would "be an extended operation."
The New York Times says witnesses reported hearing what sounded like an explosion before the collapse occurred. One Witness, Samuel Paul said the “building suddenly shook, and we saw a whole lot of smoke. A whole lot of smoke came out.” He then added it was reminiscent to the 9/11 attacks, saying “It just looked like debris smoke, similar to 9/11."
Ashley Rivera, another witness, was quoted by The Daily News as saying that "for weeks they have been smelling gas,” adding that when the explosion occurred, they “saw people flying out the window,” -- people Ashley says were her neighbors.
So far 3 victims have been identified. 44-year-old Griselde Camacho, 67-year-old Carmen Tanco, and Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 21. Four other bodies which were found overnight have yet to be identified.