Two buildings in New York’s east Harlem neighbourhood were flattened and in flames due to a possible gas leak, killing five and injuring dozens.
The death toll rose to five as the fire department pulled a fifth body from the rubble, reported the CNN.
Nine people are still missing even as rescue men started searching the debris on Wednesday evening hours after the fire was doused.
The incident took place on Wednesday morning at a residential Upper Manhattan block at East 116th Street and Park Avenue. The first information about it came to light when one of the people in the neighbouring building made a call to the utility company Con Edison, complaining of gas odour just 15 minutes before the explosion.
The explosion, reports say, was strong enough to shatter the windows in neighbouring buildings.
Witnesses said it felt like an earthquake.
Hundreds of firefighters were rushed to the buildings to tackle the fire which kept burning for hours.
TV visuals showed thick plumes of smoke billowing out of the buildings as firefighter crew continues rescuing people and ambulances rushing to the site.
Also, Metro-North Railroad, which had halted train services through Manhattan while it cleared debris from the tracks, later restored all commuter rail services.
Addressing a news conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that a “major explosion” had levelled two buildings and that nine people still remained unaccounted for.
“There was a major explosion that destroyed two buildings. The explosion was based on a gas leak,” de Blasio said.
“This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people,” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The utility company Con Edison was in the process of shutting off all gas lines into the building, added the Mayor.
The incident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).