Here’s the latest today on the East Village explosion and fire, which reduced three buildings on 2nd Avenue near 7th Street to rubble and badly damaged a fourth building.
>The injury count stands at 22. Four people remain hospitalized in critical condition.
>Two people are still missing as rescue teams carefully search the rubble. They have been identified as 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa, who was on a date at the restaurant Sushi Park at the time of the blast, and 27 year-old Moises Ismael Locón Yac, a busboy at the same restaurant.
>People who live in 144 apartments spread across 11 buildings were displaced by the disaster. About 30 people have been provided temporary housing by the city. There were 15 apartments in the three collapsed buildings. Community Board 3 and local elected officials have been helping to place residents as needed. The mayor says some people might be able to return to their homes tomorrow.
>Officials are working to find the cause of the explosion and are zeroing in on work that was being done on a gas line and the plumbing system at 121 2nd Avenue. While the investigation is in its early stages, Mayor de Blasio says “there is a possibility that the gas line was inappropriately accessed internally by people in the building.” The New York Times spoke with the owner of Sushi Park, who suspects the apartments in the building were receiving their gas from the neighboring tenement, 119 2nd Avenue. Both buildings are owned by Maria Hrynenko. There was no work permit filed for the plumbing work. A general contractor, Dilber Kukic, apparently hired a sub-contractor to do the job. Police say Kukic, charged in February by the Manhattan DA with bribing an undercover investigator, has been cooperative.
>Efforts are underway to help impacted businesses, especially the three establishments (Sushi Park, Pommes Frites and Sam’s Deli) destroyed in the blast. Community Board 3 tells us a fund is being set up with the help of the Lower East Side BID, which is a 501c3 non-profit organization. We’ll let you know when we have donation details.
>Donations for all those directly impacted are being accepted by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC. Checks can be sent to: 253 Broadway, 6th floor, New York, NY 10007. Make sure to specify that your donation is for “East Village collapse.”
>The Red Cross assistance center at Tompkins Square Library, 331 East 10th St., is open today until 8 p.m. The neighborhood-based coalition, LES Ready, will be at the center throughout the day to offer help to anyone who needs it.
>Pedestrians still can’t walk along 2nd Avenue between East 6th and East 9th streets. 2nd Avenue between 6th and 11th streets is inaccessible by car.