-->By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
What do you do when the unthinkable happens? When you're going about your day, enjoying unseasonably warm weather, when suddenly you hear a loud explosion, and everything around you begins to shake and crumble?
Well, that's pretty much what the residents in East and Central Harlem and surrounding areas were confronted with this morning when an apparent gas leak triggered an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings. According to news reports, thus far, three people are believed dead, nine are missing, and sixty or more are injured.
|Fire cranes put out fire near Metro North Rail Road Overpass at 116th & Park Avenue|
As per some of the residents, several complaints about gas smells had been noticed recently in the area, and one alleged to have contacted the gas company to come out and check – which they did – however, it was too little too late. They dispatched a team around 9:15 AM; the explosion happened at 9:30 AM
116th and Park Ave., is just a stone's throw from the Marqueta in Spanish Harlem, and other shops and stores to the east; as well as some well appointed condominiums - the Adeline, the Kalahari, and the African Market on the West Side. Known as Central Harlem, 116th is the crosstown conduit for the West Side to the East Side. Nearby is the Lexington Ave. 116th st. Subway Stop. It's the gateway to the newly developing upscale neighborhoods north and south. Immediately nearby is the elevated portion of Metro North Railway which emerges from Grand Central Terminal to Westchester, Connecticut and points north. In that general area are also high rise projects with thousands of families that, had it been a little closer to the east side, or just a little further south, could have wreaked total havoc on the community.
With that said, homes, lives, businesses and communities are still shaken, and have suffered a loss and witnessed a trauma many will not soon forget. Though the buildings were “low rise” apartments – five floors with a unit on each floor, they were homes to several families, a piano business, and a church. All of which had been in the community for quite some time.
Several neighbors reported thinking an earthquake had occurred, because their homes shook and dishes, and other items fell off the walls. Other nearby buildings had their windows blown out with glass scattering in the street.
Metro North temporarily suspended train operations while the debris was recovered from their tracks, and to make sure that their elevated tracks had not been damaged.
Of course the usual blame and denials are floating around, with Con Ed being accused of not having done a thorough inspection; and Con Ed alleging to have not received a complaint about gas leakages since 2013. More than one person said they had complained to the owner about smelling heavy gas in the area, but nothing was done about it.
Mayor Bill deBlasio spoke earlier of the situation, saying that it was a "disaster of the worst kind." The call came in to Con Ed who dispatched a team immediately, but, as the mayor continued, "it came too late for anyone to be rescued."
According to sources two of the dead were women, with at least three of the injured being children. An unidentified 15-year-old boy sustained burns and broken bones and is in critical condition. Others had minor cuts and bruises and were taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital for assistance and observation.
The fire department and rescue teams are still searching for missing victims, hoping to find them alive – with the impending drop in temperature, high winds and rain; while others are receiving shelter at a nearby center.
The NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board – and HPD – Housing Preservation Department – will be launching full scale investigations into the reports and allegations of complaints filed against the owner, as well as Con Edison. The theory currently is that a water main break collapsed onto the gas pipeline, causing the leakage, precipitating the explosion.
In the meantime, New Yorkers, and friends and relatives from across the country have been expressing shock, and concern for loved ones; and messages have been flying across the internet.
My heatfelt condolences to those families who have lost their friends and loved ones.
Stay Blessed &
www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot/ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEWS