NEW YORK (AP) — A building on fire near New York University collapsed on Thursday, and at least two people were critically injured, firefighters said.
Orange flames and black smoke billowed from the facade and roof of the five-story building in Manhattan, near several NYU buildings and the Washington Square Park area. Flames were spreading to other buildings.
Investigators were looking into whether there had been a gas leak. There were some reports of an explosion before the fire.
The area was being evacuated, and other people were being evaluated at the scene.
Freelance photographer Michael Seto, who lives about 1 1/2 blocks away, said he was having lunch around 3:20 p.m.
"I could feel the boom in my apartment, and 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.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.
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(Photo: Jonathan Lemire/AP Photo)
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