At least two people were killed and nearly two dozen injured Wednesday by a Harlem explosion reportedly triggered by a gas leak, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The mayor, speaking to New York reporters at the scene, said finding those still missing is a top priority, but cautioned that many may have simply fled to safety.
The N.Y. City Fire Department said at least 22 people were hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries and four with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.
Both fatalities were women. More than a dozen people are unaccounted for after the explosion leveled two buildings in Harlem and ignited a massive fire.
"This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people," de Blasio told the media. "We have lost two people already."
He promised a thorough search of the rubble after the 200 firefighters, who began arriving on the scene in two minutes, bring the fire under control.
The buildings housed a Spanish Christian Church and a piano repair store at the East Harlem address on Park Avenue between 114th and 116th Streets.
"It felt like an earthquake rattled my whole building," said a witness. "There were glass shards everywhere on the ground; all the stores had their windows blown out."
The mayor said the explosion occurred at 9:31 a.m. ET, only minutes before a Con Ed utilities team arrived on the scene to check on reports of a natural gas leak.
As Harlem residents gathered near the scene of the explosion, white smoke still billowed up from the debris in waves and left a chalky taste in the air.
Traffic is blocked off and Metro-North service into and out of Grand Central Terminal was suspended due to the debris on the elevated train tracks.
Story developing ...