2014 East Harlem gas explosion
Aerial view of the explosion
|Date||March 12, 2014|
|Location||116th Street and Park Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan, New York City|
|Property damage||Collapse of buildings located at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue|
The 2014 East Harlem gas explosion occurred at 9:31 a.m. on March 12, 2014, in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. The explosion leveled two apartment buildings located just north of 116th Street, at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, killing eight people, injuring at least 70 others, and displacing 100 families.
City officials initially pointed to a gas leak as the cause of the blast. In June 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the explosion on failures by Consolidated Edison and the city.
The two collapsed buildings were five stories tall and stood at approximately 55 feet (17 m). Together, the two buildings contained 15 residential apartment units. 1644 Park Avenue had the "Spanish Christian Church" on the ground floor, while 1646 Park Avenue had a piano store occupying that space.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) – which has responsibility at the Federal government level for investigating accidents involving pipelines and the transportation of hazardous materials – said that natural gas was found in nearby soil in varying concentration. NTSB Board member Robert Sumwalt also revealed that the gas main buried under Park Avenue near the scene at 116th Street dated back 127 years, to 1887.
Bricks, wood, and other debris landed on the adjacent elevated Metro-North Railroad tracks, suspending service to and from Manhattan for most of the day while crews cleaned up the mess. Service was restored by the evening rush.
In on-the-fly television interviews, witnesses described feeling the force of the blast from blocks away, including entire buildings shaking as though it were an earthquake, and it furthermore blew out windows in adjacent properties.
Morning television shows on the major city networks were preempted in favor of nonstop news coverage of the explosion and its aftermath.
Two fire companies, quartered in an FDNY firehouse located approximately five blocks to the south, reported hearing and feeling the effects of the massive explosion and alerted the department's dispatch office. Within a short amount of time, the incident escalated to a five-alarm fire, bringing over 250 firefighters to the scene.
Congressman Charles Rangel, who represents East Harlem and other parts of New York City, said, "I've never had anything this horrific that's happened in my community since I've been in Washington... This is a very serious thing. It’s our community's 9/11, even though we don't know how it started."
The American Red Cross in Greater New York was on the scene and helping those displaced, but otherwise not requiring emergency medical services, using nearby Public School 57 as a makeshift center before MTA buses transported them to a Salvation Army shelter at 125th Street. The NTSB was investigating the scene.
- Carmen Tanco, 67, dental hygienist
- Griselde Camacho, 44, public safety officer at Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work
- Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, Greek musician
- Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, and Rosaura Hernandez Barrios, 22, mother and daughter
- Alexis Salas, 22, student
- George Amadeo, 42
The NTSB, which is responsible for investigating gas-related incidents, reported on June 9, 2015 that faulty welding of two Con Edison gas pipes was primarily responsible for the explosion, but that it might not have happened at all if New York City had repaired a large hole in a nearby sewer main which it had known about for 8 years. The hole in the sewer undermined the soil beneath the gas pipes, causing them to sag and then crack open. Thus it was the combination of the two circumstances which caused the disaster. The NTSB also faulted local residents who did not report the odor of leaking gas, which began at least a day before the explosion, and Con Edison's failure to notify the New York City Fire Department immediately once the leak had been reported to the company.
In the aftermath, Con Edison sued New York City, and the office of Mayor de Blasio rejected the NTSB's finding of fault on the city's part, saying that the effects of sewer leakage was "localized" and did not cause the gas pipes to break.
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- Santora, Marc; Nate Schweber (March 13, 2014). "Rescue Effort in East Harlem Yields Only More Victims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
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- "Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations" National Transportation Safety Board website
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- Schuppe, Jon. "Witnesses Describe a Boom, Then Confusion". NBC New York. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
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- Inae Oh (March 12, 2014). "Harlem Explosion Causes Collapse Of 2 Buildings, Multiple Deaths Reported". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
The New York City Fire Department responded to a 5-alarm fire at the scene of the collapse.
- "Charlie Rangel: 'Our community’s 9/11'". Politico. March 12, 2014.
- Red Cross Helping Residents Displaced By East Harlem Blast - WCBS
- East Harlem Explosion: 4 more bodies found; Firefighters battle hotspots - WABC
- Schram, Jamie (March 14, 2014). "1 woman remains missing after Harlem blast | New York Post". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "At least 7 confirmed dead, NYC building collapse investigated". Chicago Tribune. March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Prendergast, Daniel (March 14, 2014). "Portraits emerge of lives lost in Harlem gas blast | New York Post". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Sanchez, Ray (March 13, 2014). "Amid search for the missing in NYC blast, friends, loved ones reflect on those killed". CNN. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Stewart, Nikita; Winerip, Michael; Kleinfield, N. R (March 13, 2014). "In 2 East Harlem Buildings Leveled by Explosion, Lives Entwined as in Bygone Era". The New York Times.
- Papapostolou, Anastasios. "Manhattan Explosion: Greek Andreas Panagopoulos Found Dead". USA.GreekReporter.com. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- "7 East Harlem explosion victims identified | 7online.com". Abclocal.go.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "New York City, NY/Pipeline Explosion and Fire in Manhattan; March 12, 2014" National Transportation Safety Board (June 9, 2015)
- Chung, Jen. "Con Ed & NYC's Shoddy Infrastructure Work Caused East Harlem Building Explosion, Report Finds" Gothamist (June 10, 2015)
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