Buildings Collapse After Explosion, Fire In East Harlem

Smoke is seen billowing from the site of an explosion at 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem on March 12, 2014. (credit: Adnan Islam)CBS New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Two buildings have collapsed after an explosion Wednesday morning in East Harlem.

It happened around 9 a.m. on Park Avenue on 116th Street, the FDNY said. One of the buildings that collapsed had a piano repair shop with apartments above. The second building housed a church.  

It’s unclear if anyone was inside the buildings at the time of the explosion. Officials believe the buildings were both 5 stories tall.

The FDNY says so far, 16 injuries have been reported, four serious and 12 minor. Harlem Hospital says it received one patient with serious trauma.

Video from the scene shows heavy smoke rising from the area as hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze, which has been upgraded to five-alarms. Debris and rubble could be seen scattered all over the area.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion.

“I was home and then next thing you know I’m laying down and I hear this big explosion,” eyewitness Mack Mayor told CBS 2. “I came out, looked up and a building was just gone.”

WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond said thick, black smoke was enveloping the area. Police on the scene could be seen wearing face masks, CBS 2′s Don Champion reports.

Emergency crews respond to the scene of an explosion at 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem on March 12, 2014. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Emergency crews respond to the scene of an explosion at 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem on March 12, 2014. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

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

“The building shook and then we looked to see what was happening. We saw a whole lot of smoke. A lot of smoke came out,” witness Samuel Paul told CBS 2. “There’s a lot of dark smoke still coming out. A lot of fire engines I saw going to 125th Street.”

“The smoke started to rise. It looked like something fell because it wasn’t like a fire. It just looked like debris smoke, similar to 9/11,” Paul added.

Metro-North said the explosion happened adjacent to the tracks. Service in and out of Grand Central Terminal is suspended until further notice.

The bomb squad is also responding as a precaution.

Many reported hearing a loud explosion and began posting pictures of the scene on Twitter.

Stay with as this story continues to develop.


14 thoughts on “Buildings Collapse After Explosion, Fire In East Harlem

  1. Admin deserves the credit for this post, I just found the live feed and sent it in not knowing all of these details. Admin found this story. Hats off for all the hard work you do Admin.! TY to both!

    My best, RT

      1. Me , too. I emailed Henry/Admin. and asked them to see what they could find. There’s nothing but confusion and speculation, right now. No one KNOWS Anything. The scene looks like chaos/ a bunch of chickens with there heads cut off. ABC Eyewitness News was talking about a Drone seen in the area. They don’t know if it is a Government, Police, or Prvate drone. The NYPD told News ‘Copters to keep their distance because of it.

        1. rangel came out and said that this was “our” communities 911. What a fool. I guess the black people of New York weren’t affected by 911. The guy is an idiot.

  2. LOL! #1, I know the dang time zone thing! 🙂

    Angel, I was thinking about you up there, thought maybe you might know.
    Hmmm, interesting about their drone comment 😉

    1. Nope, just what the local news is reporting. 2 dead now. All 3 of the Metro North lines are suspended and they are working on rerouting them. I looked for something in print about the drone sighting, but the only thing I could find was one of the CBS reporters assuming that it was investigaters. Wish I could find the video of the ABC TV report that I saw, which talked about the drone. Everything from ABC has an iron-clad copyright, but I think it is OK to post the link in the comments.
      Here’s the CBS story that mentions it:

      1. Sad for people killed _()_
        Thanks for the link Angel, don’t have a tv here.
        Wow what a mess!
        Funny how they have their copyright, but then buttons to share @ fb, twitter, ect………

  3. okay….. for what it’s worth, here’s my assessment of the situation based on what we know now:

    First of all, all NYC buildings have gas pumped into them via old pipes that are still around from the gaslight days, so they’re always the prime suspect in an explosion.

    Secondly, the photos show modern buildings where I would expect to see old brownstones, so the second suspect is Jewish lighting, especially if these were the only old buildings left there. (sometimes urban renewal requires a little help from insurance companies) I wish we had a picture of the buildings before the explosion, because that would probably clinch it.

    The gas that’s pumped in is scented with sulfur to make gas leaks easily detected by anyone with a nose, and that’s why these explosions always occur early in the morning. The gas builds up when everyone’s asleep, and the building explodes when the first light switch is thrown that causes a spark.

    It’s probably only a question of whether the gas leak occurred because the pipes were old, or if the landlord drilled a small hole in one of them to get his insurance company to pay for his renovation plans.

  4. Trivial knowledge addendum:
    There were a lot of building explosions when gas lights were in use, because people visiting NYC from rural locations were in the habit of blowing out a candle rather then turning a valve to put the lights out. When you blow out a gas light, the flame is extinguished but the gas keeps coming, and I don’t think it was scented with sulfur back then. Ka-Boom

    The gas valves are why you still hear old people in NYC say “open the light” and “close the light” rather than “turn the light on”.

  5. More trivial knowledge concerning gas explosions:
    England was in the business of exporting cow manure as fertilizer, and they discovered that you could pack a lot more of it onto a ship if it were dried first.
    They watched one ship after another explode shortly after leaving the port, and it was a while before they figured out why.
    As it happens, the dried manure produces methane gas when it gets wet, so anyone climbing into the wet, lower cargo hold with a lantern would blow the ship to pieces.
    As a result of that discovery, they started printing dried manure bags with the words “Ship High In Transit” so it wouldn’t be put in the wet lower cargo holds, and the acronym of that warning is where we get the word S.H.I.T., that’s now commonly used to describe manure.

  6. Gee…first we have explosions in San Francisco with unknown causes and now we have explosions in NYC practically a day later.

    Is it a coincidence or has the civil war started with the foreign insurgents initiating their first wave of attacks on our country? What’s for tomorrow? An explosion in Chicago?

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