The buildings, which collapsed around 9:30 a.m., were located at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, between 116th and 117th streets. Local hospitals treated at least 69 people for injuries, according to NBC New York. The Associated Press reported that as of Wednesday evening, there were still nine people missing.
One of the victims was identified as Griselde Camacho, 44, a public safety sergeant at Hunter College. The school's president, Jennifer Raab, confirmed Camacho's death in a statement, saying, "our hearts go out to Griselde's family at this terrible time."
Dental hygienist Carmen Tanco, 67, Rosaura Hernandez Barrios, 22, and three others also perished in the building collapse, The New York Times reported. The last three victims were discovered overnight and have not yet been identified.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference that the explosion was caused by a gas leak. In a statement to the New York Daily News, Con Edison confirmed that neighbors called in to complain about the smell of gas just 18 minutes before the explosion.
“This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people,” de Blasio said.
The New York City Fire Department responded to a 5-alarm fire at the scene of the collapse.
"The way the building imploded after the explosion, it must have happened on the bottom floor," said Carmen Vargas-Rosa, an employee at the Spanish Christian Church located in one of the buildings that collapsed. "The only thing I can see doing that much damage is a gas explosion."
Vargas-Rosa said she hadn't heard from many of the tenants who lived in the apartments above the church. She said at least 14 tenants and their children lived in the buildings.
"We could feel the boom," said neighbor Gus Cortez, 36. "We ran outside and we could see that the buildings had fallen. There was a lot of fire. People were scared."
The blast occurred near the Metro-North train tracks in Harlem, and service was suspended in and out of Grand Central Terminal as workers cleared debris. Trains were up and running again by the afternoon.
03/14/2014 1:22 PM EDT
De Blasio Details Housing Plan
Mayor de Blasio said displaced families will be provided temporary housing for up to three months, thanks to Real Estate Board of New York.
03/14/2014 1:18 PM EDT
FDNY Commissioner: Final Debris Being Removed
FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said the department is in the process of removing the site's final debris. The debris will be taken to Randall's Island for further forensic investigation.
03/14/2014 1:12 PM EDT
De Blasio, Mark-Viverito Provide Update On Explosion Outside Resident Service Center
03/14/2014 12:21 PM EDT
Bill Clinton Visits Explosion Site
Former President Bill Clinton is currently visiting the site of the #EastHarlemExplosion— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) March 14, 2014
03/13/2014 7:31 PM EDT
The Tragic Irony Behind The Building Collapse
HuffPost's Saki Knafo reports:
A gas leak almost certainly played a role in the explosion that flattened two buildings in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, killing at least seven people and injuring many more. City officials have said as much, and local residents told reporters on Wednesday that they smelled gas in the area well before the blast.
So it’s darkly ironic that the owner of one of the buildings destroyed in the explosion had actually shunned gas for an alternative energy source -- a far less combustible one.
Biodiesel, a unconventional fuel celebrated by proponents as a safer and cleaner alternative to both gas and petroleum, is made of recycled vegetable oil, animal fats, and other substances. Only about 1,000 buildings in New York City have heating systems that run solely on biodiesel, but the building at 1646 Park Avenue was one of them.
03/13/2014 7:13 PM EDT
Officials: Eighth Person Found Dead
BREAKING: NYC officials say 8th body pulled from rubble at Harlem explosion site.— The Associated Press (@AP) 4 years ago
03/13/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Fourth Victim Identified
Andreas Panagopoulos has been identified as one of at least seven victims who died from the explosion.
The Wall Street Journal reports Panagopoulos, 43, was a Greek musician who lived in East Harlem and worked in online advertising.
03/13/2014 3:47 PM EDT
Children With Asthma Near Explosion Site Return Home
03/13/2014 1:11 PM EDT
De Blasio: No Indication Of Asbestos In The Air
De Blasio said that there was no reason to suspect there might be asbestos in the air after a deadly explosion that rocked Harlem on Wednesday. In a presser on Thursday, he stressed that people in the area should still close their windows and avoid any visible smoke outside.
03/13/2014 1:08 PM EDT
NYPD Commish: We Will Look At Surveillance Footage
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that there were a number of surveillance cameras that captured images of the explosion and they will be a part of the ongoing investigation.