NEW YORK—An explosion reduced two buildings in East Harlem to rubble on Wednesday morning, one of them owned by Spanish Pentecostal Church. The New York Police Department reported at least two dead and 18 injured in the blast. Just before the explosion, a neighbor had called Con Edison, the local utility company, to report the smell of gas. Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a press conference at the site, attributed the explosion to the gas leak.
Spanish Christian Church, located on the ground floor of one of the buildings at 116th and Park Avenue, is led by Revs. Santos Mercado and Thomas Perez. The building was built in 1910, and some reports said the church had been there for the last 70 years. The church received a permit to install a new gas line last year, but had no gas or plumbing violations according to the Department of Buildings commissioner. The five-story building housed apartments above the church.
Next door, the other five-story building destroyed in the explosion housed a piano store on the ground floor and apartments above.
City officials weren’t sure how many residents were still missing, but estimated about a dozen. Norma Jackson, who said Perez was her uncle, tweeted that the church was trying to reach its own parishioners: “We seem to have no luck at the moment.”
Jordan Rice, a Harlem church planter, asked anyone affected by the explosion to contact him. “We would love to help,” he tweeted.
The debris from the explosion sprayed onto the nearby Metro-North train tracks, halting commuter rail service out of Grand Central Terminal. Smoke and dust filled Harlem for blocks as a haze spread across Manhattan.