Smoke billowed from two buildings — one that housed Spanish Christian Church and six apartments, the second housed the store Absolute Piano — after an explosion ripped through a stretch of Park Avenue in Harlem on Wednesday morning.
The cause of the explosion remains unknown, but the owner of Spanish Christian Church reported the smell of gas last night. The FDNY has declared it a 5-Alarm fire as of 10:38 a.m.
The New York Times is reporting at least one dead and sixteen injured in the explosion, adding “a senior city official suggested that there would most likely be more fatalities.”
Rev. Santos Mercado and Rev. Thomas Perez are the registered head officers for nSpanish Christian Church. The building, built in 1910, has no serious housing violations.
Kaoru Muramatsu has owned Absolute Piano since 2005, according to her Facebook page. Last summer, according to her website, she attended a reception for minority woman-owned businesses at Gracie Mansion.
On Wednesday morning, Absolute Piano’s Facebook page was flooded with comments from well-wishers.
Update, 12:30 p.m.: Two people are now dead as a result of the explosion, the New York Times reports, with more fatalities possible. At a press briefing at noon, Mayor Bill de Blasio reported that the explosion is believed to have been caused by a gas leak; WNYC reports that Spanish Christian Church received a permit last June from the city Buildings department to install 120 feet of gas piping from the existing meter to the fifth floor of the building.
FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano added that the department is still working to get the fire under control, which he said may be “a long, extended operation.”
Speaking in Spanish, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose office is only a half a block from the explosion, urged anyone living in the buildings to come forward and call 311 to share any information they may have.
“We are expending every effort,” de Blasio added. “Our hearts go out to all the families involved. We are expending every effort to locate each and every loved one.”