Earlier today Mayor de Blasio updated New Yorkers on the aftermath and continuing investigation into themassive East Village explosion that impacted four buildings along Second Avenue near 7th Street on Thursday. “This was, 24 hours ago, a vibrant bustling street,” he said. “And today people are dealing with tragedy.”
“It appears to be a gas explosion, but there’s a lot more we need to learn,” De Blasio noted. He was asked repeatedly how Con Ed’s visit to the site two hours before the explosion was related to the incident: “The reason Con Ed was there had to do with previous work that had been done at the site that they were coming to see,” he said. “It was not related to
anything that had happened that day.”
The Department of Buildings permitted gas and plumbing work in 121 2nd Avenue in 2013. Con Ed workers were there to inspect private piping in the building because the owners wanted to later introduce gas to a new installation in the building. “The problems were not safety problems,” he said. “There was no gas leak detected when the Con Ed workers were there.”
Someone asked if there was a possibility of criminal activity. De Blasio responded that they don’t know yet, but the “NYPD is involved and they will assess what next steps are necessary once we get the full picture.” He noted that there was possibly “an inappropriate accessing of the gas line.”
He said that the owner of Sushi Park was the first person to notice the smell of gas, about 15 minutes before the explosion. The owner called his landlord instead of the authorities, which prompted de Blasio to stress the importance of calling 911 or Con Ed if you smell gas: “He called the landlord. People might think that’s a common sense thing to do. The point we have to get across is there is no substitute for calling 911 or Con Ed. The first call has to go to 911 or Con Ed.”
Altogether, at least 22 people were injured, four of them critically (at least three firefighters were also injured while battling the blaze). There are currently no fatalities reported, but at least two people are confirmed missing, and there may be others as well (he noted that 42 names were called in as possibly missing, but only two had been confirmed to have been in the buildings at the time).
Three buildings were completely demolished and another one suffered tremendous fire damage: “You rarely see a scene of such devastation in a city like this.” Firefighters are still at the scene because the fourth building is smoldering, and is still in danger of flaring up as debris is cleared away. Overall, 84 people have registered for various types of assistance, and 11 nearby buildings have been evacuated.
Both de Blasio and FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro emphasized that it could take days, possibly up to a week, to clear the debris from the area. Nigro added that debris will be carefully removed and “carefully searched” due to missing persons.
De Blasio praised first responders (he noted that the FDNY arrived within minutes of the explosion) and New Yorkers at the scene: “This is absolutely extraordinary what our first responders did here…This city knows how to handle adversity,” he said. “People band together, people help each other out.”
Both officials specifically praised off-duty firefighter Mike Shepherd who climbed a fire escape to rescue people inside the burning buildings: “[He] answered the call even while off-duty and put his own life in danger,” de Blasio said. “We had individuals who came and pulled a woman to safety. Just bystanders who saw a woman’s life in danger and pulled her away even as the building was collapsing.” Nigro added that Shepherd had already been cited six times for bravery. “Looks like this will be his seventh.”
With Maud Rozee