Eight people are in the hospital after an apparent explosion and building collapse in Chinatown this afternoon.

Shi Zu Lie, a tenant of 17 Pike Street, was in his first-floor apartment when he heard an explosion and a wall fell on him. He managed to crawl out from under the rubble and was eating lunch on the sidewalk when we spoke to him through a translator. “I’m very scared and upset,” he said, his eyes red and scratches and cuts visible on an arm and a leg.


The fire department confirmed that it was called around 12:42pm to the scene of a fire and a collapse in the rear of the building’s first floor, but couldn’t confirm initial reports of an explosion. A spokesman said 8 people had been taken to the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital. Two were in critical condition and one was a firefighter with minor injuries.

(Photo: Erica Martin)

Elaine Hoffman, who witnessed the fire before it was brought under control around 1:30pm, said, “The smoke went all the way down to South Street. We went to look and they took out 5 or 6 people on stretchers and they gave mouth-to-mouth to one guy.”

The only noticeable damage to the building consisted of windows that, according to Hoffman, had been broken by firemen. About a half dozen fire trucks remain at the scene.