News International Buildings collapse after Manhattan's powerful explosion

Buildings collapse after Manhattan's powerful explosion

On Thursday afternoon a building collapsed in Lower Manhattan, sparking a major blaze that spread to three neighboring buildings. Witnesses in the East Village neighborhood reported that they heard an explosion before the building caught fire.
The buildings on Second Avenue at East Seventh Street are near New York University and the Washington Square Park area, containing both residences and businesses.
About 250 firefighters and EMS workers responded to the scene around 3:20 p.m., local time. The fire was so intense that firefighters had to withdraw from the buildings and engage in a defending outside attack, pumping a deluge of water onto the edifices.
Inspectors from New York's gas utility were at Manhattan’s building a little more than an hour before the fiery blast that injured at least 19 people. The fire comes just over a year after two buildings in Harlem collapsed after a gas leak last March, killing eight people and injuring at least 50.
The explosion appeared to be "gas-related," Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding there were no reports of gas leaks beforehand.
The cause of the powerful explosion is under investigation. 
Bad air quality
Officials remain concerned about the area's air quality. At the same time, the city’s Office of Emergency Management urged residents to keep their windows closed.
Sources: New York Times, Time, CNN, BBC