MANHATTAN (CN) - An East Village building exploded Thursday afternoon, causing the partial collapse of that building as well as one adjoining it.
New York City officials confirmed that the explosion inside 121 Second Ave., just two stalls north of East Seventh Street, injured at least 20 civilians and five uniformed personnel. Three were in critical condition as of 5:30 p.m., roughly two hours after the explosion.
The building's neighbor to the north, 123 Second Avenue, which was home to famed Belgian cafe Pomme Frites, also collapsed. A seven-alarm fire meanwhile continues to burn in the corner building, 119, a ramen noodle restaurant, and in the building north of Pommes Frites, 125, which houses a nail salon.
Early evidence suggests a gas-related explosion, caused by plumbing and gas work inside 121, home to Sushi Park, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference.
Police lines block traffic and pedestrians from entering within a perimeter several blocks on all sides of the scene.
Onlookers photographed firefighters passing through police lines to move toward the smoke.
From behind the yellow "caution" tape, firefighters could be seen hosing water from cranes onto a building on the north side of Seventh Street.
Smoke wafted well beyond the police lines. Many police and pedestrians wore face masks.
About 250 firefighters are at the scene, and a Department of Environmental Protection hazmat operation is also checking for environmental and health impacts.
Residents of the buildings, neighbors, and family members can meet a reception station and Red Cross for support at P.S. 63, located 121 E. Third St. Animal Care & Control of New York City is also at the scene.
Speaking about the 12 confirmed injuries, de Blasio said "we are praying that no other individuals are found injured, and that there are no fatalities."
"That is an ongoing effort that FDNY and all other first responders are involved in," the mayor added.
"I want to also commend the FDNY," he continued. "This is a complex and difficult operation they're mounting here, obviously doing everything they can to search for anyone who still may be in those buildings, but also to ensure that there's not spread of fire to the surrounding buildings. And the FDNY, as usual, is doing an extraordinary job handling this very, very difficult situation."
Across the street from the blaze at the Orpheum Theater, the off-Broadway production Stomp canceled its March 26 performance.
Editor's Note: On Friday morning, the New York Police Department announced that two individuals remain "unaccounted for" after the explosion, and that the fire remains active. The building at 119 is also now partially collapsed, and the city says it and 121 will have to be knocked down in a controlled demolition. Eleven buildings, containing 144 residential units, are subject to vacate orders...
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