A powerful explosion in the East Village on Thursday caused two buildings to collapse and ignited a large fire that quickly spread to neighboring buildings, leaving at least a dozen people injured, three of them critically.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, speaking at a news conference at the scene, said that “preliminary evidence suggests a gas-related explosion” was caused by plumbing and gas work being done at 121 Second Avenue, near Seventh Street.

The explosion and ensuing fire destroyed that building and led to the collapse of an adjacent building, 123 Second Avenue.

Two other buildings were damaged, and one of those buildings was still in danger of collapse, officials said.

Mr. de Blasio said workers from the utility Consolidated Edison had been on the site about an hour before the explosion and had found the work being done there to be deficient. But the mayor said there were no calls reporting gas leaks before the explosion.

Michael S. Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Edison, said several buildings on Second Avenue had been “undergoing renovations” since as far back as August.

“Based on records here, the building has had some work done inside; new gas service pipes; a lot of things; piping and such,” Mr. Clendenin said.

The first reports the Fire Department received were for a building collapse, and witnesses described a dramatic scene, with residents of the buildings scrambling down fire escapes to escape the raging flames and others dashing out of the rubble as the walls collapsed around them.

Niraj Desai, 36, a video game animator who works nearby, said he saw one woman stuck on a fire escape struggling to get the ladder unhooked.

“This poor girl was stuck upstairs,” Mr. Desai said. “She was having a hard time. You could tell there was a lot of emotion going on. A bunch of guys were down at the bottom helping her get down.”

Another man also made his way down the fire escape ladder before smoke started to pour from the building, he said.

“It was pretty crazy, pretty fast,” Mr. Desai said.

The authorities said that there were no initial reports of people missing and that those who were seriously injured seemed to have been hurt in the explosion.

Blake Farber, 29, a film director, said he had smelled a lot of gas and watched as two people who appeared to be working at the site were frantically running between Sushi Park, the ground-floor restaurant, and the residential entrance.

Seconds later, Mr. Farber said, he felt the blast and was enveloped by dust and smoke.

“And then I saw a bunch of people running out of the restaurant — I saw a man crawling on the ground,” he said. “He was crawling and he turned around and his face was bloody. Then I saw some guy getting out of the basement, the metal grate, and he looked like a worker, who works in the kitchen. He was crawling out, his face was full of dust and his mouth was full of dust. His hands were sticking out and his arms kind of saying, help me.”

Full Story On : NY Times