Explosion destroys building on Madison Avenue

Monday, July 10, 2006

A four-story building on Manhattan's East Side went exploded and collapsed in flames Monday after what witnesses said was a thunderous blast that rocked the neighborhood.

Newscopter Seven was live over the scene of the East Side of Manhattan on East 62nd Street between Park Avenue and Madison.

This all began at about 8:40 this morning when what was reported as a building explosion that led to a collapse just seconds later. The bldg was a four-story brick townhouse, 25 feet wide by 75 feet deep. Smoke could be seen rising in the distance, and pushed people out of nearby buildings it was so strong. The fire started as a second alarm fire and quickly grew to a third alarm fire.

As of 11:50 this morning: At least 11 injuries have been reported, six firefighters and five civilians. Three of the firefighters were taken to Lenox Hill Hospital, three to Weill-Cornell Medical Center of NY-Presbyterian.

Five civilians also hurt, four of them went to Weill-Cornell, one refused medical aid at the scene. Two of the civilians were seriously hurt and they went to Weill. There are reports of minor injuries to all firefighters.

Hours after the blast, authorities said their preliminary investigation suggests this is all due to a gas leak. Con Edison says that one of its workers was on the scene nearby at the time of the blast, investigating a report of the strong odor of gas in the area.

The White House issued a statement saying that there is no indication at all, and no thought whatsoever, that the blast might be any sort of act of terror.

The building completely collapsed in a matter of seconds and was quickly engulfed in flames.

OEM Commissioner Joe Bruno tells WABC it appears gas may have been to blame for the explosion on Manhattan's Upper E Side.

Leak may have been in the lower level of the building of the collapse building.

The Links Club at 36 E 62nd St has damage to the rear of its building. OEM is examining structural stability of 30 and 32 E 62nd St. Residents of 30 E 62nd St., the Cumberland House high-rise have been evacuated as a precaution. They may be relocated pending the results of a structural investigation.

The third alarm assignment brought 44 FDNYunits and some 200 firefighters to the scene.They started working with shovels and anything they could get their hands on to see if there are any people to be rescued under the debris.

The building is reportedly home to a doctor's office, a dental office and a residence. The NYC buildings department says it is a four story building, with a doctor's office on the first floor and a residence above.

It is owned, according to city records, by Ethel Bartha, of that address. A Dr. Nicholas Bartha is also listed as a resident of the building, and a medical practice, East 62nd & Madison Medical Associates, is also listed to the building.

FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says a nurse reporting for work at the collapse building told authorities she smelled gas before the explosion and believed that at the time of the blast there was only one person in the building at the time.

The doctor recovered from the debris apparently spoke with authorities on his cellphone to help them locate him. According to Scoppetta, there was a communication from inside the building earlier that leads authorities to pursue a report that this incident may have resulted from a suicide attempt.

Latest street closures : There is always congestion in this area, and it's going to be gridlock for many hours.

  • As of mid-morning, southside of Park Avenue and Madison Avenue were completely shut down and backups were seen all through the 60s and 70s on the East Side.
  • Northbound sound of Park Avenue has remained open.
  • Avoid areas near the Eastside of Central Park from 59th Street Bridge on up to Lexington Avenue.

    The Transit Authority tells us that several east side and crosstown bus routes have been rerouted as a result of the explosion.

    The TA says the:

  • M1, M2, M3, M4, M30, M66, and the M72 bus lines are running on Third Ave between 56th and 65th Streets.
  • Subway service on the 4,5 and 6 lines was not affected by the explosion but there may have been some residual delays from an accident in Greenwich Village earlier this morning.

    Marcus Solis is live on the scene with the latest updates.

    The FDNY asked Con Ed to turn off the gas in the neighborhood just as a precaution.

    Yaakov Kermaier, 36, a resident in a building next door, said he was outside when he heard "a deafening boom. I saw the whole building explode in front of me."

    "Everybody started running, nobody knew what was coming next," he said. His nanny and newborn escaped from their next-door apartment unharmed.

    Thad Milonas, 57, was operating a coffee cart across from the building when he said the ground shook and the building came down, said he helped two bleeding women from the scene.

    TV host Larry King, who had been in his hotel room nearby, described the explosion to CNN as sounding like a bomb and feeling like an earthquake.

    Larry King: "I was on the 15th floor and I heard an explosion which I had never heard before. I thought of "9/11" and I saw people running. The only sound I've heard like this is in movies. It sounded like the bombing in London during World War II."

    The firefighter hurt on the scene was being rushed into an ambulance by paramedics. There is no word on his condition.

    Nina Pineda has more on the story from the people living next door of to the four story building.

    No one was evacuated from the building next door but the people who live there who came of the building this morning have not been allowed back inside.

    Some people said they had come out earlier in the morning to walk their dogs and had smelled a faint smell of gas but did not report it. Now they are filled with regret that they didn't. According to some residents who live next door they smelled gas as early as 6:30 a.m.

    Nearby Resident: "There was just black smoke coming up and then out the front you could see some of the building's windows had blown out. It rocked our building, the building shook, it was like an earthquake."

    Nearby Resident: "There was an explosion but the main noise came from the rubble hitting the ground. It was just terrifying, terrifying."

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