Shortly before 1 p.m. an explosion at 17 Pike Street in Chinatown caused a partial collapse of the building. Nine people, including two firefighters, were injured in the collapse and later taken to Beth Israel Hospital.
Taoping Lin, who owns a bodega housed in an adjacent building, said he heard an explosion and saw someone walk from the building.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin translated for Lin, who has difficulty speaking English.
“It could have been a lot worse, unfortunately when the structures are very old fires happen,” Chin said. She added, “We want to make sure the residents get help as soon as possible.”
The building, which appears to have collapsed from the inside, houses a beauty salon, but it was unclear whether or not that the explosion originated within the salon.
Hector Martinez lives in 105 Henry Street, a building that shares and both an alley and basement with 17 Pike Street.
“At first I thought something in my apartment shook or fell, but when I got out into the hallway there was a lot of smoke,” Martinez said. “The smoke was overwhelming because it was coming into the staircase. At first it was white smoke, but after 30 to 40 seconds it became gray smoke.”
“I kept going back to get my neighbors because some of them are elderly,” Martinez said. He added that there have been fires in the building before.
Reporting by Railan Brooks.