Buildings collapse in Harlem: fatalities and injuries

Mar 12, 2014

The scene at 116th Street and Park Avenue in New York City.
Credit FDNY

7:51 am:    Seven people have been confirmed dead, and four of those bodies were found this morning.  Workers at the scene of the two destroyed apartment buildings  plan to remain at the scene through today, as they search for more people believed to be missing following yesterday morning's explosion.

9:01 pm:  One of three people killed in the  Workers at the scene of two destroyed apartment buildings in New York City's East Harlem plan to remain at the scene through today, as they search for more people believed to be missing following yesterday morning's explosion.

explosion was a security officer at a Manhattan college.

Hunter College president Jennifer Raab says Griselde Camacho was among the victims in the Wednesday morning blast.

Raab says in a statement on the college's website Camacho had worked there since 2008.

A gas leak is being blamed for the explosion, which injured more than 60 people. Nine people are unaccounted for.

6:08 pm:  By evening, rescue workers finally began the search for victims amid the broken bricks, splintered wood and mangled metal after firefighters spent most of the day dousing the flames. Heavy trucks arrived to clear the mountain of debris where the two five-story buildings stood.

Police said two women believed to be in their 40s were killed. At least three of the injured were children; at least one was reported in critical condition.

Fire officials said more than a dozen people were unaccounted for, but cautioned that some may not have been in the building.

A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings, Ruben Borrero, said residents had complained to the landlord about smelling gas as recently as Tuesday, a day before the disaster.

A few weeks ago, Borrero said, city fire officials were called about the odor, which he said was so bad that a tenant on the top floor broke open the door to the roof for ventilation.

The Fire Department said a check of its records found no instances in the past month in which tenants of the two buildings reported gas odors or leaks.

The block was last checked on Feb. 28 as part of a regular leak survey, and no problems were detected, Foppiano said.

Con Ed said it remains to be seen whether the leak was in a company main or in customer-installed inside plumbing.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate. The agency investigates pipeline accidents in addition to transportation disasters.

4:50 pm:   MTA Metro-North Railroad has restored all service to and from Grand Central Terminal.

Metro-North structural engineers have verified the integrity of the Park Avenue elevated structure. And all four tracks have been restored to service after being cleared of debris and  inspected.

Trains will run at reduced speeds through the collapse zone to protect nearby employees and reduce vibrations as rescue and recovery work continues. This will result in some delays and crowding through the rush hour.

4:09 pm:   Officials say Mount Sinai Hospital has been treating 22 patients from the East Harlem explosion.

One injury is critical, others are minor, including cuts, scrapes and smoke inhalation.

Three of the patients treated there are children with minor injuries.

4:00 pm:  Metro-North Railroad is restoring some New Haven and Harlem line service from Grand Central Terminal.  Metro-North structural engineers have verified the integrity of the Park Avenue elevated structure. Two of the four tracks on the structure have been restored to service after being cleared of debris, inspected for track and third rail integrity and approved for operations by Metro-North and the New York City Fire Department.

As more tracks are restored, the level of train service will increase. Train speeds may also be reduced to protect nearby railroad workers and to limit vibrations at the explosion site.

New Haven Line and Harlem Line customers should expect crowding and delays due to track limitations, with some local and express trains combined. The track configuration does not allow Hudson Line service to operate to and from Grand Central until more tracks are restored to service. Customers are urged to delay travel until later if possible.

MTA New York City subway will cross-honor Metro-North tickets. 

2:30 pm: Advice for MetroNorth commuters looking to travel into or out of New York City on the New Haven line: MetroNorth is advising commuters headed out of the city to take No. 5 Subway service to the 180th Street Station and transfer to the No. 2 Subway for service to 233rd Street to access the Woodlawn Station. Riders headed into the city can take the train to  Woodlawn Station and connect with  No. 2 Subway service. Please listen for announcements at your station. 

1:10 pm: Associated Press reporting that two apartment building collapsed after an explosion caused by a gas leak. Two people were killed, 18 injured and an undisclosed number of people missing.  Utility workers were on the way to check out a report of a gas odor at the time of the 9:30 a.m. blast, which shattered store windows for blocks, hurled debris onto elevated commuter railroad tracks close by, cast a plume of smoke over the skyline and sent people running into the streets.  

12:05 pm:  NYPD is reporting 2 people dead and 17 injured.

11:30 am:  NYPD has ruled out terrorism as a cause of the explosion that led to the collapse. Metro-North is now offering limited service between Stamford to the Bronx. Check Metro-North's schedule for updates.

10:00 am:  All Metro-North service in an out of Grand Central Terminal has been suspended until further notice due to a building collapse in Manhattan adjacent to the railroad's tracks.

The New York City Fire Department is on the scene in East Harlem at 116th street and Park Avenue. The New York Police Department is reporting 1 person dead and 15 people injured.

A spokesman for Metro-North says they're removing debris from the tracks and assessing the condition of those tracks. Northbound trains are being held at Grand Central and Southbound trains are proceeding to the nearest station. Metro-North can't yet say when trains will be back in operation.