US & Canada

Several missing after NYC building collapse

Wreckage of major fire in New York City's East Village Image copyright Getty Images

At least two people are thought to be missing after an explosion sent flames tearing through a Manhattan building.

The blast, the result of faulty utility work, caused three buildings to collapse on Thursday, injuring 22 people, four critically.

Officials are trying to determine whether one other person who has been reported missing is connected to the incident.

As the fire is contained, families are desperately searching for loved ones.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMoment a building collapsed in New York

Fire fighters and medical staff worked overnight to try and douse the flames in Manhattan's East Village.

Nicholas Figueroa, 23, was on a date at a sushi restaurant affected by the explosion and has not been seen since, his brother Tyler said.

His date, who lies in hospital, remembers only stumbling out of the restaurant before losing consciousness.

"I just pray my brother shows up," said Tyler Figueroa.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of emergency responders were dispatched to the scene on Thursday

Authorities are also looking for Moises Lucon, a worker in one of the buildings.

Earlier, officials said they were investigating the cases of six other people who had been reported missing - besides Mr Figueroa and Mr Lucon. The people were all unaccounted for, but their connections to the incident were not clear.

Officials now say that they are only investigating the disappearance of one other person.

Image copyright AP

Fire fighters spent Friday pouring water on the crumbled wreckage that remained strewn across parked cars and surrounding streets.

Officials said early indications are that the explosion was caused by shoddy plumbing and gas work inside one of the buildings.

Utility inspectors declared the work faulty just an hour before the blast tore through a restaurant that occupied the ground floor and sparked a fire that continues to burn.

Blake Farber, a witness, said he had been walking by the building and smelled gas seconds before the big blast.

Image copyright Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the wreckage with other officials. They sidestepped shattered glass and puddles of water as they surveyed damage and thanked the emergency responders.

Mr de Blasio said there were no reports of a gas leak before the explosion, which was so powerful it blew the door off a cafe across the street.

Emergency dispatchers started receiving calls reporting the incident around 15:17 local time (19:17 GMT) on Thursday, and emergency services were on the scene in about three minutes, city officials said.

Manhattan's East Village is a neighbourhood of small businesses, restaurants and apartments. Thick plumes of dark smoke could be seen across Manhattan on Thursday.

For some residents, Friday was also the first time that they could survey the destruction up close.

Image copyright Getty Images

"I'm totally devastated. For my neighbours, for our neighbourhood. We all look out for one another," Naomi Machado said while crying.

The blast came just over a year after a gas explosion killed eight people and injured around 50 in a building in nearby East Harlem. In that incident, a gas leak was reported just before the blast.