March 12, 2014, 12:37 pm
Rangel: Harlem buildings' collapse 'our community's 9/11'
By Rebecca Shabad
The congressman who represents New York City's East Harlem called the Wednesday explosion that apparently caused the collapse of two buildings his district's 9/11.
“This is a very serious thing. It’s our community’s 9/11, even though we don’t know how it started,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told NBC News's New York affiliate. “The whole New York delegation has been concerned, and members that are not in committee are glued to the television and hearing reports from you makes us at least a little closer to home.”
Terrorism is not suspected in the explosion, officials say, though a counterterrorism official briefed President Obama on the event, the White House confirmed to The Hill.
Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, briefed Obama on the incident that left at least two people dead and more than a dozen injured, an official said.
According to reports, two buildings located on Manhattan's Upper East Side collapsed Wednesday morning after an apparent explosion. A fire erupted, which drew a five-alarm response of more than 255 firefighters.
“The White House will stay in close contact with the federal, state and local partners responding to this incident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this incident and commend the first responders working tirelessly to save lives and contain the fire. The president will continue to be updated as new information becomes available,” the official said.
Authorities told local reporters there is no indication of terrorism linked to the explosion and collapse.
Debris from the explosion covered a large area near the buildings and landed on tracks used by Metro-North near the tunnel to enter Grand Central Terminal.
Reports say Con Edison received a phone call just minutes before the explosion from someone who reported a heavy gas odor at one of the buildings.
“I’ve never had anything this horrific that’s happened in my community since I’ve been in Washington,” Rangel said. “I hope that soon, and very soon, it will be contained and we can go back to some degree of normal normalcy.”
—Justin Sink contributed.