NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — City officials were refuting reports Thursday that complaints about gas leaks at the site of Thursday’s massive explosion in East Harlem were ignored by police, fire and Con Edison.
Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed a full investigation into what caused the blast, which killed at least eight and injured more than 60, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“We know there was an explosion, but we don’t know everything about the lead up to it and that’s why we’re doing a thorough investigation and, by the way, we can only get conclusive evidence when the fire is out,” de Blasio said.
The mayor vowed to leave no stone unturned in the hunt for the cause.
“Every energy is going to be expended,” de Blasio said.
Sources told CBS 2 there are two key questions: What caused the gas pipe to burst and what caused the actual ignition?
Con Edison has launched a thorough review of its records of gas pipes in the area of the explosion.
The National Transportation Safety Board also has officially begun its investigation into the blast, but cannot yet get to the scene due to safety issues.
Agency board member Robert Sumwalt said as of Thursday, a day after the explosion, the scene was “in a word, devastating.”
“We’ve got basically two five-story buildings that have been reduced, essentially, to a three-story pile of bricks and twisted metal. I’ve seen an occasional flare-up of fire, and the smell of smoke is omnipresent,” Sumwalt said. “All of this underscores that this is an active search and recovery operation — an active search and rescue operation carefully removing debris.”
The scene is also too dangerous for NTSB investigators to get in there.
“We are not able to get in up close and personal to begin close examination of the pipe. We’re not able to do that until the FDNY determines that the area is safe,” Sumwalt said.
Once the NTSB has site access, crews will conduct a pressure test of the pipe, Sumwalt said. But the NTSB has already come to some early conclusions about the low-pressure pipe.
“Running up and down Park Avenue, we’ve got a distribution line, and coming off that distribution line, you have service lines going into the respective buildings,” he said. “That pipe is still intact. That’s unlike the other pipeline accidents that I’ve been to, where the pipe is thrown out of a crater. This pipe is still in the ground.”
The forthcoming pressure test will shed light on the source of the leak, Sumwalt said. As of now, the NTSB has not determined where the gas leak originated, and has not narrowed down whether the leak was in the service pipe rather than coming from a heater or a stove.
The NTSB is at least “operating under the assumption at this point that it is a natural gas leak that led to an explosion,” Sumwalt said.