There are plenty of images of the awful aftermath of the gas explosion that leveled two East Harlem buildings and killed eight people earlier this week, but CBS News now has video of the event as it happened. The footage comes from security cameras mounted across the street from the scene at 116th Street and Park Avenue. Shot from two angles, it shows a mostly still block transform into something that looks like a war zone as debris suddenly begins raining down onto the street, which quickly fills with black and white smoke. A pedestrian can be seen falling over, either out of terror or the sheer force of the blast. It’s very scary.
Meanwhile, the cleanup and investigation at the site of the explosion continues. Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board, which was brought in to help local authorities, told the New York Daily News that the ground underneath the buildings was soaked with natural gas, confirming the initial assumption that the disaster was caused by a leak. “Normally the soil in New York City, 18 to 24 inches down into the ground, would have zero concentration of natural gas,” he said. However, Con Ed found gas concentrations of up to twenty percent in at least five of the fifty holes they dug in the vicinity of the wreckage. FDNY chief Sal Cassano told CBS that crews plan to finish clearing the rubble by the end of the day on Saturday “so we can get to the basement to start our investigation” of what caused the leak.
The Daily News reports a total of 91 apartments in the area had to be evacuated, and over one hundred people affected by the explosion have registered with the city for housing assistance. So far, two groups — the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and the Real Estate Board — have come up with 34 apartments to house displaced families for three months, until the city can help them find a permanent solution.