At least one person is dead after an explosion at a Bronx apartment building set off a massive fire and led to a partial building collapse on Tuesday. Five of those injured were police officers who raced into the burning structure to help usher residents to safety, and one was a woman who was rescued from her dwelling by police, officials said.
Police body-camera video posted to Twitter by the New York City Fire Department showed officers freeing the trapped woman from beneath an overturned sofa and other debris and carrying her to safety as flames engulfed the adjacent apartment unit.
“We saved lives today,” Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer himself, told a news conference in lauding the actions of emergency first-responders.
The cause of the blast is under investigation, but John Hodgens, FDNY chief of fire operations, said, “we had a report of somebody who did smell gas” before the explosion.
The mayor said gas service was shut off for the entire block after the incident.
Hodgens said there was no immediate evidence of foul play.
The NYPD said a 77-year-old woman was dead, and two other women, ages 68 and 82, were in stable condition. Two of them women, sisters, were found on the ground outside the building; one of them later died. The third civilian victim was still inside. Five cops suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to hospitals as well.
The explosion was initially thought to be gas-related, but Con Ed said it had no indication that was the case. Mayor Eric Adams, at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the scene, said the gas was off to the entire block as a precaution.
FDNY officials said they were sifting through the rubble for possible evidence as to an underlying cause.
Eyewitnesses told News 4 they heard at least two explosions, followed by flames. Onlookers at first thought it was snowing, until they realized it was ash from the fire coming down instead.
Video tweeted by a New York City Council member showed thick black smoke pouring from the building in the 800 block of Fox Street and an active FDNY response.
In footage posted on Twitter by the New York Fire Department, firefighters could be seen training streams of water on the smoking, blackened exterior of the building. A large section of the structure’s facade appeared to be missing.
Hodgens told reporters that the apartment where the explosion occurred and the two units on either side were destroyed. Two or three other dwellings were heavily damaged, he said. All the row house units were connected under a single roof.
One woman who was inside the apartment at the center of the explosion was killed, and her sister was hospitalized with severe injuries, Hodgens said. Both women, in their 60s, were found laying on the ground outside, he said, apparently blown clear of the structure by the force of the blast.
The woman rescued from inside the adjoining apartment also was hospitalized, and one civilian was treated at the scene for minor injuries, while one firefighter was injured along with the five police officers, an FDNY spokesman told Reuters.
Authorities earlier in the day had reported one fatality and eight injuries.
A neighbour identified as Bonnie Salgado, interviewed at the scene by local station WNBC-TV, said she heard a “big boom,” then saw the rear of the building “tumbling down” and debris blown into the backyard before a second explosion shook the building
The fire is about 3 miles south of the deadly Bronx blaze earlier this month that killed 17 people. Many of those victims, some of them young children, were mourned over the weekend.
The fore chief posted online, “Currently at the scene of a massive fire due to a gas explosion in my district. All emergency first responders are on the scene and currently battling the fire.
I will continue to remain on site with my team as long as it takes to get answers and ensure the community’s safety”