- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

At least a dozen people were injured and others could be trapped in a five-story Manhattan building that caught fire and collapsed Thursday, New York police said.

At least three of the injuries are reportedly critical.

The seven-alarm fire at the East Village structure started just before 4 p.m. EDT and brought more than 100 firefighters to the scene. Reports indicated that there may have been an explosion before the fire.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said officials believe the explosion could be gas related. Utility crews with Con Edison, a New York energy and gas provider, were on the scene to help with the investigation once fire crews got the blaze contained.

Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, told The Associated Press that he heard “a huge boom” and ran outside to see what made the noise.

“Already there was smoke everywhere,” he said. “The flames were coming out from the roof. The fire was coming out of every window.”

The building, near the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 7th Street, is in the Washington Square area not far from New York University.

Flames spread to at least two other buildings and authorities were evacuating the surrounding streets and structures.

“Everything’s blocked here to 7th. They’re afraid more buildings are going to collapse,” a New York police officer told a reporter from Business Insider.

In March 2014, a gas explosion demolished two apartment buildings in East Harlem, killing eight people and injuring 70 more.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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