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Manhattan apartment building partially collapses after explosion

NEW YORK — A large explosion rocked a New York City apartment building on Thursday.

Numerous tweets said the explosion happened in the East Village, near Second Avenue and Seventh Street. The building partially collapsed after the explosion. At least two buildings were on fire.

A Google search showed two businesses at the address — Pommes Frites and Sam’s Deli and Grocery.

Firefighters said at least 19 people were hurt, four critically.

Preliminary evidence suggested that a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building was to blame. An hour before the blast, utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty.

Videos from the scene showed numerous fire units had responded.

Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, ran outside when he heard “a huge boom.”

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

Freelance photographer Michael Seto said he could feel the explosion in his apartment, about 1 ½ blocks away.

“It short of shook,” he said.

He grabbed his camera, ran outside and found a crowd gathering, looking at a brick tenement-style building with a restaurant on the first floor.

“By the second story, the front part of the building, the facade, the first and second stories, it looked like, had collapsed into the street,” he said.

Rubble was on the sidewalk, and glass and debris had been flung across an avenue.

As Seto ran up to the building, a fire was starting inside it.

“It spread very quickly and pretty much engulfed the first floor,” he said.

Meanwhile, a man was climbing up the fire escape, not down, he said.

“People were calling to him that the building’s on fire — he needs to get down,” and he did, Seto said.

He saw one person lying on the ground, being attended to by two to three passers-by who were holding his head still. A woman was sitting on the curb with blood coming down her face, and another woman walked past him with blood on her face.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.