De Blasio On Harlem Building Collapse: 'It's A Tragedy Of The Worst Kind'

Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke near the scene of a deadly Harlem explosion Wednesday that destroyed two buildings. The mayor called the explosion, which killed at least two people and injured 18, a "tragedy of the worst kind."

"The only indication of danger came about 15 minutes [before the explosion] when a gas leak was reported to Con Edison," the mayor said. The explosion, which occurred at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue near 116th Street, appears to have been caused by a gas leak, the mayor confirmed. ConEd received a call from an adjacent building at 1652 Park Avenue about the leak at 9:30 a.m. By the time ConEd arrived at the scene, the explosion had already happened.

The mayor said ConEd is in the process of shutting down all gas mains to the buildings, and cautioned that this is a "complicated" task that may take some time.

The mayor added that 250 firefighters are still battling the blaze and that it could be hours before it's extinguished. Once the fire is out, the mayor said, responders can begin to search for missing people in the rubble.

The mayor refused to give a number of missing people and emphasized that some who are thought to be missing may actually be someplace else.

A hotline will be established shortly for friends and family members trying to contact loved ones who may have been in the exploded buildings, de Blasio said. In the meantime, people can call 3-1-1.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she has turned her district office, only a block away from the explosion, into a command center for first responders.

Read live updates on the explosion here:

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

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.

Read more here.

03/13/2014 7:13 PM EDT

Officials: Eighth Person Found Dead

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.