A dozen people, including four firefighters, were injured in a fire and partial building collapse ignited by an explosion near the corner of Pike and Henry streets on the Lower East Side early this afternoon.
Fire, police, EMS and Department of Buildings authorities are still crawling over the scene and so far, offering few official details about the incident, which began about 12:30 p.m. People in the building and nearby heard a loud booming noise and smelled smoke. Smoke and flames poured out of the roof of the building for a while, but the fire was quickly brought under control.
Firefighters from the LES and Chinatown stations rescued as many as a dozen people using ladder trucks, according to eyewitnesses.
The fire was originally reported as being in the building at 17 Pike St., but several residents of 111 Henry St., which backs onto 17 Pike but faces Henry Street, around the corner, said the fire was actually in their building.
Tao Ping Lim, who owns the variety store directly adjacent to both buildings, at 19 Pike St., said he called 911 around 12:35 p.m. after he heard what he believed to be an explosion and saw smoke. The explosion apparently occurred on the first floor in the rear of 17 Pike, authorities said at a press conference a few moments ago. The building, which has been owned by Mary Shiu of 104 Madison St. since 1979, is a five-story walk-up with 18 apartments. Department of Buildings records indicate Shiu was cited for two building code violations in January 2009: failure to maintain fire certain “fire stopping” safety measures on the cellar level, and rotted joists that were causing the floor and the walls to separate. Both violations were resolved by March 2009.
Local Council Member Margaret Chin was at the scene and said authorities had confirmed to her that there were at least eight people injured; authorities later updated that number to 12.