A day after a gas explosion caused three East Village buildings to collapse, firefighters were searching through debris left at the site for two men who remain missing.
Two buildings, 121 and 123 Second Avenue, collapsed after the explosion at around 3:17 p.m. on Thursday and ensuing seven-alarm fire. 119 Second Avenue eventually collapsed as well. Residents, commercial tenants like restaurant Sushi Park at 121 Second Avenue and passers-by scrambled to get out of the buildings after the blast and before the buildings came down.
WCBS 2 reported that they were "carefully digging through [the rubble] by hand." FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, "We don’t just pick it up with machines and put it in a truck and drive it away."
Police Commissioner William Bratton also called the search "very complex," and the NYPD had cadaver-sniffing dogs at the site yesterday.
An NYPD search dog can be seen on the left (Jen Chung / Gothamist)
According to the city, there are two missing persons: Nicholas Figueroa, 23, who had been eating at Sushi Park, and Moises Ismael Locón Yac, 27, a Guatemalan immigrant who worked as a busboy at the restaurant. Figueroa had been on a date and his family has been frantically searching for him; his date managed to escape. His father told the Daily News, "Right now we don’t really know what to do, we’re just praying. I don’t know what to do. I’m gonna go crazy if my son is not here."
Locon lived in a rented room in Queens, where the Times reports, he had "poster of the Empire State Building and a framed cover from The New Yorker — a drawing of a cat looking out an apartment window at the cityscape." He had worked at the restaurant for a year and a half. His brothers have been going to hospitals and combing the neighborhood looking for him: "We have just been walking down the streets, one by one. We are just so exhausted and upset. I don’t know what happened to him, " they told the Daily News.
The owner of Sushi Park, Hyeonil Kim, told the Times that Locon was a good, "earnest” employee: "'Everything I lost is just lost, nothing I can do about it,' he said. 'But this friend —' Mr. Kim stopped speaking, overcome by sobs."
If you’re interested in donating money to help those affected by the East Village explosion, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is accepting donations. Checks should be made out to the NYC Mayor's Fund with a note that they are earmarked for the East Village Collapse. In kind donations are not being accepted at this time.