Two feared dead after gas blast razes three New York buildings

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Two people are unaccounted for after an apparent gas explosion levelled three buildings in New York City, officials said.

The mayor’s office said the two individuals were not yet officially regarded as missing persons.

Nineteen people were injured, four critically, as the blast sent flames soaring and debris flying in Manhattan’s fashionable East Village.

Preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building.

Inspectors discovered faulty work just an hour before the blast, which caused the building to collapse and largely destroyed another structure.

Craig Ivey, president of utility company Con Edison, said a plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade and inspectors had been there to check on a planned meter installation about an hour before the fire.

But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters was not big enough and the inspectors said gas could not be introduced to that part of the building.

The fire spread to nearby buildings, scattering debris across surrounding streets in the heart of the East Village.

Orange flames billowed and smoke could be seen and smelled for miles after the blaze, in an area of old tenement buildings that are home to students and long-time residents near New York University and Washington Square Park.

About 250 firefighters battled the blazes and the area was evacuated as residents were advised to keep windows closed because of the smoke.

Tyler Figueroa said his 23-year-old brother Nicholas had disappeared after going on a date at a sushi restaurant that was levelled by the explosion. Mr Figueroa, 19, said the couple were paying the bill when the blast occurred and that his date, who is in hospital, remembers only stumbling outside before losing consciousness.