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NEW YORK (AP) — An apartment building collapsed in a fiery burst of rubble on Thursday and flames spread to nearby buildings in what officials said appeared to be a gas-related explosion, injuring at least a dozen people and scattering debris across surrounding streets in the heart of Manhattan’s trendy East Village.
Firefighters said at least 12 people were hurt, three critically, some with burns to their airways. De Blasio said it didn’t appear that anyone was missing.
Orange flames and black smoke billowed from the facade and roof of the five-story building in Manhattan, near several NYU buildings and the Washington Square Park area. Flames were spreading to other buildings.
Investigators were looking into whether there had been a gas leak. There were some reports of an explosion before the fire.
The area was being evacuated, and other people were being evaluated at the scene.
Freelance photographer Michael Seto, who lives about 1 1/2 blocks away, said he was having lunch around 3:20 p.m.
“I could feel the boom in my apartment, and it short of shook,” he said.
He grabbed his camera, ran outside and found a crowd gathering, looking at a brick tenement-style building with a restaurant on the first floor.
“By the second story, the front part of the building, the facade, the first and second stories, it looked like, had collapsed into the street,” he said.
Rubble was on the sidewalk, and glass and debris had been flung across an avenue.
As Seto ran up to the building, a fire was starting inside it.
“It spread very quickly and pretty much engulfed the first floor,” he said.
Meanwhile, a man was climbing up the fire escape, not down, he said.
“People were calling to him that the building’s on fire – he needs to get down,” and he did, Seto said.
He saw one person lying on the ground, being attended to by two to three passers-by who were holding his head still. A woman was sitting on the curb with blood coming down her face, and another woman walked past him with blood on her face.
Click here to see photo slideshow of Manhattan blaze.