The death toll is rising in the explosion that leveled two New York City apartment buildings.
Authorities now say at least seven people died in the blast and several others remain unaccounted for. Dozens were injured
“It was so powerful that you heard the boom and then it rocked the whole apartment,” Mariasela Frias, the niece of one of the victims, told CNN.
“The ceiling tiles started to fall down. The back wall was lined with mirrors and mirrors started to shatter and fall down.”
It’s believed the explosion, which could be felt for blocks, was sparked by a gas leak. A massive five-alarm fire ensued, filling the area with thick, black smoke. Hundreds of first responders rushed to the scene.
Griselde Camacho, a public safety officer at Hunter College, was killed in the blast. Carmen Tanco, 67, was also killed. Tanco lived on the second floor of one of the now leveled buildings for more than two decades.
Before learning of her aunt’s death, Frias told CNN she was frantically calling her.
“She’s sassy, feisty, very loving, very giving, very family oriented, very connected. She’s all about being together. No drama,” Frias said.
“Life is too short. Time is too short. It’s about love, family. Tomorrow’s not promised.”
As this community grieves, authorities are investigating why this happened.
New York City utility company Con Edison received a call from a nearby resident about the smell of gas at 9:13 a.m. They dispatched a crew but the explosion happened before they arrived.
The Department of Buildings has records showing that a new gas line was installed in one of the buildings in June to provide gas to a stove on the fifth floor.
Additional records show that the buildings have had some minor violations over the years.
As for the surrounding buildings, there is no other structural damage although the fire department is keeping some people out of their homes until operations are complete at the site.