Two people remain unaccounted for after a building exploded in the Manhattan area of New York City on Thursday. According to the mayor’s office, the police department was not yet listing the two individuals as official missing person reports because they are under further verification and investigation. Nineteen people were reported injured, with four in critical condition at area hospitals.
Nicholas Figueroa, 23, reportedly disappeared after going on a date at an East Village sushi restaurant leveled by the explosion. According to his brother Tyler, 19, the couple was paying for their meal when the blast occurred. His currently hospitalized date only remembers stumbling outside before losing consciousness.
The midafternoon blast caused restaurant diners and building residents to run out, leaving almost everything behind. The flames shot as high as 50 feet into the air. The explosion caused the collapse of three buildings and fire damage to a fourth. The three five-story buildings all collapsed within a few hours of each other. The powerful blast sent debris flying for blocks and the subsequent fire sent flames soaring to the sky. Passers-by were hit by debris and flying glass and bloodied victims sat on sidewalks or lay on the ground waiting for aid.
New York City firefighters raced to the scene of the collapsed buildings and seven-alarm fire. About 200 firefighters initially responded to the disaster. Firefighters worked through the night using high-powered water towers to pouring large volumes of water over the rubble to extinguish pockets of fire at the site. As of Friday morning, about 50 firefighters remained at the scene. Neighborhood residents said they could barely sleep Thursday night due to the sirens and acrid smoky smell of the burning buildings.
The building explosion in Manhattan’s East Village is believed to have been caused by a natural gas leak caused by plumbing and gas work being done inside the basement of the building. A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade and inspectors for utility company Con Edison had been there. The utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty about an hour before the explosion ripped through the Manhattan apartment building.