By KAITLYN MEADE | A gas explosion ripped through the first floor of a Chinatown building Thursday, starting a blaze that fire officials said injured at least twelve people, three of them critically.
The fire broke out at 17 Pike St. near the base of the Manhattan Bridge on at 12:42 p.m., on Thurs., July 11, according to a Fire Department spokesperson.
The fire was allegedly caused by a gas explosion in the building, but this was not confirmed by fire officials as of press time. Witnesses say they heard a loud noise like an explosion.
“There was a big ‘bomm’,” said Denia Aponte, who lives around the corner from the explosion. “Then I heard banging, I think it was the fire department, and smelled smoke.”
She was on the scene shortly after to take photos, she said, and saw two people taken away by ambulances. One appeared to be badly injured.
“I could see they were lying on the floor,” Aponte said, showing a photo of a man lying on the ground surrounded by paramedics.
A fire official did confirm that nine people were taken to area hospitals with minor burns and smoke-inhalation and three to the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center for serious burns after part of the first floor’s wall and ceiling collapsed in the blaze. The five-story building near the corner of Henry St. was a mix of commercial and residential, with businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.
Sixty firefighters responded, from 12 units, the first came onto the scene within minutes. Four firefighters were “green-tagged” for minor injuries and sent to Beth Israel.
Police officers taped off both sides of the street from West Broadway to Henry St. and diverting traffic around it.
“I’ve never seen so many fire trucks in my life,” said Bill Chin, an employee of YO! Bus who stood at the nearby bus stop.
Con Edison personnel were on the scene and the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, said the Fire Dept. spokesperson.
Originally published July 11, 2013