A gas line exploded during construction at John F. Kennedy High School in the Marble Hill section of Manhattan on Thursday night, critically injuring three workers and heavily damaging three floors, the authorities said.
Seven people were working on a construction project in a science laboratory on the sixth floor shortly after 8 p.m. when the explosion occurred, the police said. The workers were draining gas from a main in the lab before starting their work but failed to drain it completely, setting off the blast, the police said.
The force of the explosion blew out windows on the sixth floor and shook a nearby apartment building, according to officials and witnesses. The police said that the blast “heavily damaged” the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building, but that no serious fire lingered after the initial explosion.
Speaking to reporters outside the school on Thursday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the sixth floor of the school was “very, severely damaged” with at least three classrooms affected by the blast. He said the city would conduct a structural assessment to determine if part or all of the building could be reopened.
“This building has been seriously damaged although the structural damage is very little,” Daniel A. Nigro, the New York City fire commissioner, said. “It’s something to do with the gas lines in this building, we do know that, but what caused this explosion, we do not know that.”
Mr. Nigro said that the contractors did not report smelling gas before the explosion.
The mayor said the explosion happened while employees of a private contractor were working to update science labs at the school. He declined to name the contractor but said it “had a good reputation” and had worked with the city on many previous projects.
“There is an incredible amount of debris,” a city official said. “It seems like some exterior walls, the integrity of the walls, are in question. But there is no fire.”
Officials said that the three injured workers were all men and that all three were rushed to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. All three were listed in critical condition and were being treated in a burn unit, but their conditions appeared to be stabilizing, a spokeswoman for the hospital said on Friday. The men each sustained various degrees of burns, officials said.
The high school is part of a complex in Marble Hill — a small part of Manhattan that is physically on the mainland — that contains eight schools, including Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy, Bronx School of Law and Finance, and Marble Hill School for International Studies. More than 4,000 students study in the complex, the mayor said.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Liam Stack