On March 12, 2014, a gas explosion caused the collapse of two buildings in East Harlem, New York, resulting in eight deaths and over 50 injuries (Dowell). Those who survived continue to struggle with issues such as the loss of loved ones, displacement and severe property damage.
The trouble began on the night of Tuesday March 11, when several people in the area smelled gas. On the day of the explosion, Jennifer Salas, who resided at 1644 Park Avenue recalled, “Last night it smelled like gas, but then the smell vanished and we all went to sleep” (Santora).
Another couple in a nearby building slept with the windows open that night and when the smell was still present the following morning, they placed a call to Con Edison at 9:13 a.m. (Santora). A team was sent to investigate the odor, but unfortunately, they arrived on the scene to find the two buildings that once stood at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue completely collapsed.
The next couple of days were filled with chaos and heartache. Rescue workers tirelessly searched through the debris, while survivors eagerly awaited news of their missing loved ones. In the end, eight people were killed and more than fifty were treated for injuries ranging from minor to severe (Dowell).
Several days after the explosion, federal investigators were able to identify the probable cause of the explosion as a faulty gas main. The gas main that supplied the two collapsed buildings was tested by the National Transportation Safety Board and “failed the pressure test at the normal operating pressure” (Prendergast). The damaged parts of the pipe are being sent to Washington, D.C. to undergo further testing.
While investigators work to come to a definite conclusion regarding the exact cause of the blast, surviving victims continue to struggle in the aftermath of the explosion. People from several organizations, including the People’s Power Assembly and the Chelsea Housing Coalition, visited the area on March 23, offering their support and assistance to those in need.
Many of the victims have been experiencing symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder, including nightmares and chest pains (Dowell). Many of the people who resided at the collapsed building are still living in shelters, while those who live in neighboring buildings are dealing with severe property damage. According to Rosa Maria de la Torre from the Chelsea Housing Coalition, “Three-fourths of the buildings in the vicinity of the blast are still boarded up and don’t have windows” (Dowell).
The tragic explosion has touched and altered the lives of many and it may be quite some time before the victims can begin to recover.
Dowell, LeiLani. “Solidarity Shown with East Harlem Residents in Wake of Killer Gas Explosion.” Workers World. http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/03/29/solidarity-shown-east-harlem-residents-wake-killer-gas-explosion
Prendergast, Daniel. “Source of Gas Leak in Harlem Blast Discovered.” New York Post.
Santora, Marc. “At Least 3 Killed as Gas Explosion Hits East Harlem.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/nyregion/east-harlem-building collapse.html?hpw&rref=nyregion&_r=0