NEW YORK, July 10 (Reuters) - A three-story building collapsed in Manhattan on Monday morning after an apparent gas explosion, causing injuries, a frantic rescue operation and sending smoke billowing into the air.
New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, speaking on CNN from the scene, said, "There's a building that collapsed due to what appears to have been a gas explosion at about a quarter to nine this morning." The White House in Washington said the collapse was not related to an act of terrorism.
Witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a very loud explosion and tremendous noise as the building came down.
"I saw the building collapse and there was a very big explosion," witness Theodore Milonas said.
Police and fire officials at the scene said two people had been taken to the hospital and that a firefighter suffered neck and back injuries.
Later, firefighters were seen pulling someone from the rubble on a stretcher.
Firefighters scrambled to remove debris and search for victims, doused the flames with water and inspected the damage from tower ladders.
"I saw a lot of smoke, people scurrying everywhere," CNN talk show host Larry King, who happened to be on the scene, told reporters. "There was one huge boom. ... It sounded like a bombing would sound, like the bombing of London in World War Two."
Local media said the apartment building on 62nd Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan housed a beauty salon and some doctors' offices. Police said the building collapsed before any patients were due for their morning appointments.
The Upper East Side is historically one of New York's most upscale neighborhoods with many luxury apartment buildings near Central Park.