2014 East Harlem gas explosion

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2014 East Harlem gas explosion
An elevated view of the fire following the explosion, with a plume of smoke, fire department trucks with ladders extended, and firefighters hosing water from the ladder buckets and from the street. The elevated railroad is in front of the scene.
DateMarch 12, 2014 (2014-03-12)
Time9:31 am.[1]
Location116th Street and Park Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°47′59″N 73°56′36″W / 40.79972°N 73.94333°W / 40.79972; -73.94333Coordinates: 40°47′59″N 73°56′36″W / 40.79972°N 73.94333°W / 40.79972; -73.94333
CauseGas leak[2]
Deaths8[3]
Non-fatal injuries70+[1]
Property damageCollapse of buildings located at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue[2]

On March 12, 2014, an explosion occurred at 9:31 a.m.[1] 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,[2] killing eight people, injuring at least 70 others, and displacing 100 families.[1][4][5][6] City officials initially pointed to a gas leak as the cause of the blast.[2][7] In June 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the explosion on failures by Consolidated Edison and the city.[8]

Background[edit]

The two collapsed buildings were five stories tall and stood at approximately 55 ft (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.[2][9]

Utility company Consolidated Edison said it received a gas leak call 15 minutes prior to the explosion and had sent its two crews to the spot; however, they arrived after the explosion.[10]

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[11] – 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.[12]

The explosion[edit]

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.[13]

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.

Firefighters battling the flames

Morning television shows on the major city networks were preempted in favor of nonstop news coverage of the explosion and its aftermath.[14]

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and the New York City Police Department responded to the scene after the explosion within two minutes.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

Victims[edit]

The fatalities in the explosion and collapse included eight people.[6][18][19][20][21][22]

  • Carmen Tanco, 67, dental hygienist[21][22]
  • Griselde Camacho, 44, public safety officer at Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work[21][22]
  • Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, Greek musician[21][23]
  • Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, and Rosaura Hernandez Barrios, 22, mother and daughter[3][21]
  • Alexis Salas, 22, student[21]
  • George Amadeo, 42[21][24]
  • Mayumi Nakamura, 34, Japanese artist[25]

Two bodies were pulled from the wreckage that were not initially identified.[6][21][22]

Aftermath[edit]

The NTSB, which is responsible for investigating gas-related incidents, reported 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.[4] 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.[8]

Con Edison sued New York City, and the office of Mayor Bill 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.[26] The utility's suit, filed in June 2015, blamed the gas explosion on neglect by the city. Con Edison said the city was notified on multiple occasions about depressions on the street pavement.[27]

In November 2015, an investigation by the New York Public Service Commission accused Con Edison of 11 violations of gas-safety regulations. The PSC found that the utility did not correctly install a gas pipe, and failed to notify the Fire Department after two reports of gas odors. The report said that undermining of a gas line by a neglected city sewer line was a contributing factor.[28] In February 2017, Con Edison agreed to pay $153 million to settle the PSC charges. It was described by New York governor Andrew Cuomo as the largest payment for a gas safety incident in the state's history. The settlement will largely go to gas safety education, repairs of pipes prone to gas leaks, and costs incurred by residents and businesses as a result of the explosion. The utility did not admit wrongdoing.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "3 Dead, Several Missing After Explosion Levels Buildings in East Harlem". CBS New York. March 12, 2014. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e "At Least 3 Killed as Gas Explosion Hits East Harlem". The New York Times. March 12, 2014. Archived from the original on March 7, 2022. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Santora, Marc; Nate Schweber (March 13, 2014). "Rescue Effort in East Harlem Yields Only More Victims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  4. ^ a b National Transportation Safety Board (June 9, 2015). "Natural Gas-Fueled Building Explosion and Resulting Fire" (PDF). Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  5. ^ "Officials: All Missing Persons Likely Accounted for in East Harlem Explosion". NY1. March 15, 2014. Archived from the original on March 15, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Santora, Marc; Mcgeehan, Patrick (March 14, 2014). "Search for Bodies Yields to Hunt for a Cause of East Harlem Explosion". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  7. ^ Sanchez, Ray (March 14, 2014). "Amid search for missing in NYC blast, loved ones, friends reflect on those killed". CNN. Archived from the original on March 24, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  8. ^ a b McGeehan, Patrick (June 9, 2015). "Con Edison and New York City Are Faulted in East Harlem Explosion". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021.
  9. ^ "Gas leak blamed for deadly blast in New York". GlobalPost. Agencia EFE. March 12, 2014. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  10. ^ "East Harlem Apartment Collapse toll reaches 3 with over 70 injuries". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ "Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations" Archived November 7, 2013, at the Wayback Machine National Transportation Safety Board website
  12. ^ "NTSB: Abnormal Concentration Of Gas Found Near East Harlem Blast Scene". CBS New York. March 14, 2014. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "Metro-North Announces Modified Schedule Due To Fatal East Harlem Building Explosion". CBS New York. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  14. ^ Schuppe, Jon (March 12, 2014). "NYC Explosion Witnesses: A Boom, Shaking, Fire and a Frantic Search for Victims". NBC New York. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  15. ^ Sickles, Jason (March 12, 2014). "NYC building explosion leaves 3 dead, 60 injured". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on March 15, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  16. ^ "Harlem Explosion Causes Collapse of 2 Buildings, Multiple Deaths Reported". HuffPost. March 12, 2014. Archived from the original on March 15, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014. The New York City Fire Department responded to a 5-alarm fire at the scene of the collapse.
  17. ^ "Red Cross Helping Residents Displaced By East Harlem Blast". CBS New York. March 13, 2014. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  18. ^ Schram, Jamie (March 14, 2014). "1 woman remains missing after Harlem blast | New York Post". Nypost.com. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "At least 7 confirmed dead, NYC building collapse investigated". Chicago Tribune. March 13, 2014. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  20. ^ 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. Archived from the original on February 19, 2018. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Prendergast, Daniel; Greene, Leonard; McNulty, Matt (March 14, 2014). "Portraits emerge of lives lost in Harlem gas blast | New York Post". New York Post. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  22. ^ a b c d Sanchez, Ray (March 13, 2014). "Amid search for the missing in NYC blast, friends, loved ones reflect on those killed". CNN. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  23. ^ Papapostolou, Anastasios (March 13, 2014). "Manhattan Explosion: Greek Andreas Panagopoulos Found Dead". USA.GreekReporter.com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  24. ^ "7 East Harlem explosion victims identified | 7online.com". Abclocal.go.com. Archived from the original on March 15, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  25. ^ Hu, Winnie (March 19, 2014). "After East Harlem Explosion, Mourning a Japanese Daughter Who Loved New York". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  26. ^ Chung, Jen (June 10, 2015). "Con Ed & NYC's Shoddy Infrastructure Work Caused East Harlem Building Explosion, Report Finds". Gothamist. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  27. ^ Ross, Barbara (June 8, 2015). "Con Ed sues city over last year's East Harlem gas blast". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  28. ^ Blain, Glenn (November 18, 2015). "Con Ed accused of 11 violations in East Harlem gas blast". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  29. ^ "Con Edison To Pay $153 Million in Settlement For East Harlem Gas Explosion". CBS New York. February 16, 2017. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.

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