First there was the smell of gas, then an explosion and a burst of flying glass. Smoke and a hail of hot ash spattered onto the pavement of Second Avenue in the East Village as a red-brick building folded into itself on Thursday afternoon. Flames licked out of some windows, and the bottom floors blew out.
The blast and fire, which injured at least 19 people, four critically, also served as a call to action for those who could help.
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