New York building explosion injured rises to 20

By Xinhua

New York : The number of injured people in an apparent gas explosion at a New York apartment building this weekend increased to 20, including eight children and two firefighters, U.S. media quoted fire officials as reporting Sunday.

Support TwoCircles

The blast occurred at the apartment building at around 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) Saturday. The five-story building, at 10 West 119th Street in Harlem, has 20 apartments.

The injured included a family of five with serious burns. Four children, all sisters, were in a critical condition, and their mother was also badly injured, the New York Times reported.

The other injured people were in a stable condition in hospital, fire officials said. Two firefighters were hurt, including one hit by falling debris when he entered the devastated apartment block, New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at a news conference.

Neighbors said the blast could be felt blocks away. “I heard a big boom. A big explosion. My whole house shook,” said Vannatta Williams, who lives in the apartment building next door. “I thought the whole building was going to come crashing down.”

Scoppetta said a gas leak in a first-floor apartment caused the blast. “It does appear to be a gas leak explosion that then caused a flash fire,” he said.

Some residents in the neighborhood said they had smelt gas since Friday, but no one called to report it.

Officials from New York power utility firm Con Edison said they had not received any reports of a gas leak in the area.

Other residents said that one apartment was operating as an illegal restaurant, cooking and selling takeout food to taxi drivers, according to the reports.

But Scoppetta said late Saturday that “there is no evidence now that there was any illegal activity going on.” He added that the police and fire marshals are still investigating the cause and origin of the fire.