A Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said the utility received a call of a gas leak at 9:13 AM. The call came from a resident at one of the newer building on Park Avenue. The utility dispatched a truck two minutes later but it arrived after the explosion, the spokesman said.
Clouds of dark smoke rose over the largely residential area of red-brick tenements and small businesses after the the 9:30 a.m. blast. Hundreds of firefighters responded, many spraying water on the roaring blaze from ladders, others furiously pulling bricks near the collapse. Metro North commuter rail service was suspended as debris from the explosion landed on the elevated tracks across the street, authorities said. "I heard an explosion," said a neighborhood resident named Angelica. "The impact of the explosion jammed the doors. I couldn't get out the house. It was so loud."
The New York police bomb squad responded to the scene, according to a law enforcement source.
"Two buildings have collapsed. I hope there is no one in there. It's just rubble," a worker at a nearby flea market said. Dark smoke could be seen billowing for a three-block radius as hundreds of rescue officials descended on the scene.