July 10, 2006

NY building collapses after apparent gas explosion

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A four-story building collapsed in
Manhattan on Monday morning after an apparent gas explosion,
causing at least eight injuries, a frantic rescue operation and
sending smoke billowing into the air.

The gas leak may have been the result of a suicide attempt,
New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told reporters on
the scene, and the White House in Washington said the collapse
was not related to an act of terrorism.

"There's a building that collapsed due to what appears to
have been a gas explosion. ... It was sufficiently severe that
it blew out the windows in the apartment building across the
street," Scoppetta said.

"It may very well be ... a suicide attempt," he said.

A neighbor had reported the smell of gas before the
explosion and fire, the gas utility reported.

One was man was taken out of the rubble on a stretcher and
was in critical condition. Officials said he owned the building
and suffered severe burns.

In addition five passers-by and two firefighters were
injured, Scoppetta said.

Witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a very loud
explosion and tremendous noise as the building came down.

Firefighters scrambled to remove debris and search for
victims, doused the flames with water and inspected the damage
from tower ladders.

"I saw a lot of smoke, people scurrying everywhere," CNN
talk show host Larry King, who happened to be on the scene,
told reporters. "There was one huge boom. ... It sounded like a
bombing would sound, like the bombing of London in World War

Local media said the apartment building on 62nd Street on
the Upper East Side of Manhattan housed a beauty salon and some
doctors' offices. Police said the building collapsed before any
patients were due for their morning appointments.

The Upper East Side is historically one of New York's most
upscale neighborhoods with many luxury apartment buildings near
Central Park.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Gary Crosse)