2 missing after NYC blast; 6 others might be missing, too

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Two Missing After Explosion, Fire Level NYC Restaurant

NEW YORK (AP) - Firefighters on Friday used high-powered water towers to extinguish pockets of fire at the site of an apparent gas explosion in Manhattan's trendy East Village as authorities reported that two people were missing and six others might be, too.

Nineteen people were injured, four critically, after the powerful blast and fire sent flames soaring and debris flying Thursday afternoon. Authorities said they were searching for Nicholas Figueroa, who had been on date at a restaurant in one of three buildings that were leveled, and Moises Lucon, a worker there.

Police said they also were trying to determine whether six other people reported missing - but not thought to have been in the destroyed buildings - were connected to the explosion.

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.

On Thursday night, Tyler Figueroa said his 23-year-old brother, Nicholas, had disappeared after going on a date at a sushi restaurant, whose building facade was still intact Friday.

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NYC 2nd ave 7th st explosion - Manhattan - New York City (used in article #21158098)
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2 missing after NYC blast; 6 others might be missing, too
The site of an apparent gas explosion that took place three days earlier in the East Village neighborhood of New York is seen Sunday March 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Rubble is moved Sunday, March 29, 2015, at the site of an apparent gas explosion that took place three days earlier in the East Village neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
As firefighters walk along East Seventh Street, a pile is rubble is seen Sunday March 29, 2015 at the site of an apparent gas explosion that took place three days earlier in the East Village neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: Firefighters continue to hose down the site of a seven-alarm fire that caused the collapse of two buildings and damage to two other buildings a day after the blaze took place on March 27, 2015 in New York City. At least two people are missing and over a dozen injured. (Photo by Nancy Borowick-Pool/Getty Images)
East Village gas explosion causes inferno, destroys 4 buildings; 25 injured, 2 people missing; Con Ed faulted gas pipe work shortly before blast. (Photo By: Marcus Santos/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
East Village gas explosion causes inferno, destroys 4 buildings; 25 injured, 2 people missing; Con Ed faulted gas pipe work shortly before blast. (Photo By: Marcus Santos/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: An NYPD arson explosion detective visit the site of a seven-alarm fire that caused the collapse of two buildings and damage to two other buildings a day after the blaze took place on March 27, 2015 in New York City. At least two people are missing and over a dozen injured. (Photo by Nancy Borowick-Pool/Getty Images)
An official inspects a building adjacent to the site of a partial building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York, Friday, March 27, 2015. Authorities say two people are unaccounted for following an apparent gas explosion that leveled three buildings. Preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building was to blame. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Firefighters respond to an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee says a resident from a building adjacent to the two that collapsed reported that he smelled gas inside his apartment, but thought the odor could be coming from outside. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Smoke from a fire in the East Village mixes with fog to obscure the city. Manhattan, NY. (Photo By: Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Susan Watts/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Passersby watch as rescue efforts continue after an explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The explosion leveled an apartment building, and sent flames and billowing black smoke above the skyline. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: A building burns after an explosion on 2nd Avenue on March 26, 2015 in New York City. The seven alarm fire drew firefighters from across the city. A number of injuries have been reported. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Susan Watts/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Members of the NYPD arrive to the scene where a building burns after an explosion at a commercial and residential block on March 26, 2015 in New York's East Village. The entire building at 125 Second Avenue was engulfed in flames and the lower two floors appeared partially collapsed, television footage and press photographs showed. Twelve people were reported hurt according to fire department officials. AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter walks near at the scene where a building burns after an explosion at a commercial and residential block on March 26, 2015 in New York's East Village. The entire building at 125 Second Avenue was engulfed in flames and the lower two floors appeared partially collapsed, television footage and press photographs showed. Twelve people were reported hurt according to fire department officials. AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Firefighters battle a blaze caused by an explosion that forced two buildings to collapse on Second Avenue in Manhattan's East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. Officials have reported that at least 12 people were injured but it is unclear if anyone was trapped inside either building. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Firefighters watch as their co-workers battle a blaze caused by an explosion that forced two buildings to collapse on Second Avenue in Manhattan's East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. Officials have reported that at least 12 people were injured but it is unclear if anyone was trapped inside either building. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: A hose snakes through the street as firefighters battle a blaze caused by an explosion that forced two buildings to collapse on Second Avenue in Manhattan's East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. Officials have reported that at least 12 people were injured but it is unclear if anyone was trapped inside either building. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Firemen depart after fighting a building fire following an explosion on 2nd Avenue in the East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. The seven-alarm fire drew firefighters from across the city, with injuries reported. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: New York Police officers, their faces covered because of smoke, block the entrance to a street as firemen extinguish a blaze following an explosion on 2nd Avenue in the East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. The seven-alarm fire drew firefighters from across the city, with injuries reported. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Smoke rises from a burning building after an explosion on 2nd Avenue on March 26, 2015 in New York City. The seven alarm fire drew firefighters from across the city. A number of injuries have been reported. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: In this handout provided by the New York City Police Department, smoke rises from the scene of a buidling explosion in Manhattan's East Village March 26, 2015 in New York City. At least four people were in critical condition and nine others injured in the blast, which early indications suggest was a gas explosion. (Photo by New York City Police Department via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: New York City Fire Department personel work to extinguish a fire as a building burns after an explosion on 2nd Avenue of Manhatten's East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. Officials have reported that at least 12 people were injured but it is unclear if anyone was trapped inside either building. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A New York City fire department Arson investigator arrives at the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York on Thursday, March 26, 2015. An apartment building on fire near New York University collapsed on Thursday. Two nearby buildings began burning and firefighters said at least 12 people were hurt, three critically, and other people were being evaluated at the scene. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: New York City Fire Department personel work to extinguish a fire as a building burns after an explosion on 2nd Avenue of Manhatten's East Village on March 26, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Smoke rises from a burning building after an explosion on 2nd Avenue on March 26, 2015 in New York City. The seven alarm fire drew firefighters from across the city. A number of injuries have been reported. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A resident watches a blaze at a commercial and residential block on March 26, 2015, in New York's East Village. The entire building at 125 Second Avenue was engulfed in flames and the lower two floors appeared partially collapsed, television footage and press photographs showed. Twelve people were reported hurt by fire department officials. AFP PHOTO/EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
New York firefighters battle a blaze at a commercial and residential block on March 26, 2015, in New York's East Village. The entire building at 125 Second Avenue was engulfed in flames and the lower two floors appeared partially collapsed, television footage and press photographs showed. Twelve people were reported hurt by fire department officials. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Joe Marino/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
#FDNY units arrived on-scene in East Village less than 3 minutes after receiving the call. http://t.co/VCWHUuYq8s
Building at 121 Second Avenue in East Village, near Seventh Street collapsed after it was rocked by a blast and a fierce fire that sent black smoke into the sky.(Photo By: Joe Marino/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
New York City firefighters work the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Orange flames and black smoke are billowing from the facade and roof of the building near several New York University buildings. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Smoke billows from a building in New York's East Village neighborhood at the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse Thursday, March 26, 2015. Orange flames and black smoke billowed from the facade and roof of the building in Manhattan, near several New York University buildings and the Washington Square Park area. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
7th & 2nd from my rooftop.
Smoke billows from a building in New York's East Village neighborhood at the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse. There were some reports of an explosion before the fire and the area was being evacuated. (AP Photo/Jonathan Lemire)
Live from the scene of the fire in Manhattan http://t.co/j5hSBxIURA
Live video from the scene at 2nd avenue in Manhattan http://t.co/asdDCwPR5i
Pano of @FDNY tower ladders at fire/collapse scene on Second Ave #nyc @nypmetro http://t.co/KMJsaDdx5r
Fire throughout cockloft Exp 2 & Exp2A http://t.co/4CtFOzbycf
Building fire & partial collapse have 2nd Ave & surround closed. Massive response from multiple agencies @FDNY #nypd http://t.co/hrgTqVglUk
Craziness happening now! Giant #fire in the #eastVillage 😥 hope everyone is safe!
Pray for the civilians that were injured and those that may be unaccounted for http://t.co/iYf0pmUHAu
7th st and 2nd Ave is on fire
This horrific fire is taking its toll in the #eastvillage the flames are getting worse http://t.co/tp8w0xoOHI
Prayers for the #EastVillage hope everyone is safe. 2nd avenue at 7th st. #fire#nyc#eastvillage
Now #FDNY operating on-scene at 123 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. http://t.co/bg8vx1TwLX
The flames are getting way worse in this #eastvillage Fire http://t.co/0vELWB97BS
#Manhattan building collapse on 125 2nd Ave. http://t.co/Ef66yr60xr
FIRE!!! 2nd Ave this morning and now. #fdny #nyc #les #eastvillage #fire
Manhattan: *7 Alarm Explosion* 125 2 Ave. U/D; Major building explosion/collapse. Photo @nypmetro http://t.co/aHcOTBZpoP
U/D Manhattan: *4 Alarm Fire* 125 2 Ave 2 Buildings on fire. Multiple Civilians missing. #FDNY #BREAKING http://t.co/F9is9yj6ap
East village 3/26/2015 I pray no one was killed or injured.
#FDNY on scene of a major building collapse in #Manhattan on 125 2nd Ave. http://t.co/9tqIQ9Lx6R
As we were celebrating life!!!!! Some bad luck came around east village- good vibes for this building ♨️🙈 AUCH! Not necessary! #fogoinmanhattan #cuidado #payattentionnyc ..
2nd Ave #EastVillage http://t.co/oXjTxK7BLl
Super not chill with what I'm witnessing.
Hope Taqueria Diana is ok. #nyc🔥🔥🔥
Video of the massive fire in Manhattan's East Village from the @AOL offices on Bway and 9th street. http://t.co/8Joszr6d4w
U/D Manhattan: 125 2 Ave FDNY reporting 3 FireFighters missing. Search on the way 10-66 Transmitted. #FDNY #BREAKING http://t.co/AftWTCRNCg
Huge explosion on 2nd ave between st. Marks and 7th st. 2 buildings on fire. So scary.
#pommesfrites just exploded on second ave
#LES
Building just exploded next to my work
East Village gas explosion causes inferno, destroys 4 buildings; 25 injured, 2 people missing; Con Ed faulted gas pipe work shortly before blast. (Photo By: Marcus Santos/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
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Figueroa said that the couple was paying for the meal when the blast occurred and that his brother's date, who is in the hospital, remembers only stumbling outside before losing consciousness.

"I just pray my brother shows up," he said.

The explosion caused the collapse of three five-story buildings and damage to a fourth, which was seven stories tall, the Fire Department of New York said.

On Friday, firefighters poured gallons of water over the wreckage, a giant wave of crumbled brick, twisted metal, splintered wood and bits of residents' belongings. Rubble was still strewn across parked cars, and a menu from the sushi restaurant and other debris were scattered across the surrounding streets.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials stepped across glass and pools of water from fire hoses as they surveyed the damage and thanked firefighters.

Meanwhile, some residents saw the destruction up close for the first time.

"I'm totally devastated. For my neighbors, for our neighborhood. We all look out for one another," Naomi Machado said, crying she glanced at the rubble on her way to work.

Initial evidence pointed to a gas explosion. A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade in one of the now-destroyed buildings, and inspectors for Con Edison had been there earlier Thursday, company President Craig Ivey said. But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters wasn't big enough, Con Ed said.

A woman listed in city records as the building's managing agent didn't immediately respond to messages Friday. An engineering firm involved in getting permits for work at the building declined to comment.

A contractor who was injured in the blast - and who's facing unrelated charges of bribing an undercover investigator posing as a housing inspector - declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion. City records show the contractor, Dilber Kukic, got a permit last June for plumbing, flooring, removing partition walls and other work at the building.

Police Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Kukic had tried to help people escape the explosion and had been helpful to authorities.

Kukic was treated and released from a hospital, said his lawyer, Mark Bederow.

"His thoughts are with the people who are injured and the victims of this," Bederow said Friday.

Kukic is a relatively minor player in a 50-person bribery case that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and other authorities unveiled last month. Kukic is accused of paying $600 in cash to try to get housing violations dismissed at two upper Manhattan properties he owned. He has pleaded not guilty.

The blast happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem killed eight people and injured about 50. A gas leak was reported shortly before that blast.

De Blasio noted that no one had reported a gas leak before Thursday's explosion. Con Edison said it had surveyed the gas mains on the block Wednesday and found no leaks.

But bystander Blake Farber said he'd been walking by the building and smelled gas seconds before the big blast.

Diners ran out of their shoes and bystanders helped one another escape, witnesses said. Passers-by were hit by debris and flying glass, and bloodied victims were aided as they sat on sidewalks and lay on the ground.

The explosion was so forceful it blew the door off a cafe across an avenue and left piles of rubble on the sidewalk. One witness said his son helped to lift debris off a man so he could escape the restaurant where they had been eating.

___

Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Verena Dobnik, Tom Hays, Jonathan Lemire, Mike Balsamo, Kiley Armstrong and Stephanie Siek contributed to this report.





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