3 Dead, Over 50 Injured in Harlem Blast

Mayor de Blasio vows to investigate reports of gas smell

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2014 7:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Rep. Charlie Rangel called it "our community's 9/11": Dozens of police officers and firefighters spent the day digging through rubble and dousing flames after a gas leak blew up two buildings in Harlem today, the Daily News reports. The latest tally, per the New York Times: three dead, more than 50 wounded, and about 10 still missing. Many of the injured have minor wounds, while others had broken bones and one woman rescued from the rubble was in critical but stable condition with head injuries.

"There was no warning in advance," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "It’s a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication." He promised to investigate claims by residents that they had smelled gas for days and called 311 many times; one neighbor tells the New York Post that gas smells persisted for years. The city says it will look into a contractor's installation of a new gas line in one of the buildings nine months ago. What's more, one of the buildings had "several vertical cracks" deemed dangerous in 2008, according to city records, but there's no record of them ever being fixed.

Firefighters respond to an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Firefighters respond to an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Rescue workers remove an injured person on a stretcher after a possible explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this image taken from video from WABC, firefighters battle a blaze at the site of a possible explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/WABC-TV)
In this image taken from video from WABC, firefighters battle a blaze at the site of a possible explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/WABC-TV)
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