Multiple fatalities are feared after a massive explosion rocked the East Village this afternoon and caused the collapse of at least one apartment building. Dozens of apartments are reportedly engulfed in flames and the FDNY has declared a seven-alarm emergency. All local television stations are covering the scene live and reporters there say there is a strong smell of gas. The fire started in a building at Second Avenue and East Seventh Street and hundreds of first responders are on the scene. I’ll update this post when more is known.
UPDATE: Some video is coming in.
UPDATE II: From the Wall Street Journal.
An explosion in New York City’s East Village on Thursday afternoon led to a building collapse and multiple injuries, a law-enforcement official said, with hundreds of emergency workers on the scene fighting the fire and searching the rubble for trapped people. A preliminary investigation indicated the fire and building collapse was due to a gas explosion, the official said. Two other buildings were in flames, the official said. The explosion, which sent flames into the sky near the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, happened shortly after 3 p.m., according to police officials. A ground-floor store was blasted out, a law-enforcement official said. The scene created chaos in the East Village, a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings, restaurants and bars. Perry Kroll, who lives a block away, said he felt his whole building shake, and all of his neighbors spilled out into the street. “There’s an epic smoke column rising from the block,” he said. “I can see really big flames everywhere and chunks of ash falling from the sky. It looks like a building just blew out into the street. It’s just absolute chaos.”