FOUR members of a church which collapsed after a suspected gas
explosion in New York are still missing.
The Spanish Christian Church, in East Harlem, was flattened by
the blast on Wednesday. It occupied the ground floor of a
five-storey building which was destroyed by the explosion.
At least seven people are known to have been killed in the
explosion, and dozens were injured. Reports from the scene spoke of
billowing clouds of smoke, debris hurled across the street, and
passers-by trapped in their cars.
About one third of the congregation of the Evangelical Spanish
Christian Church also lived above it in the building which
The church's financial secretary, Carmen Vargas-Rosa, told the
Huffington Post that approximately 20 members of the
church's congregation of 60 lived above it.
Residents of the building reported smelling gas just after 9
a.m. local time on Wednesday. But less than 20 minutes later, the
building exploded with such force that tremors could be felt more
than a mile away.
There have been reports that gas leaks had been smelt several
times in the building in recent years, and the National
Transportation Safety Board is at the scene to investigate the
cause of the blast. Rescue workers continue to comb the rubble and
debris for survivors.
A prayer vigil for the church has been organised for Thursday
morning by New York pastors.
One former member of the congregation of the Spanish Christian
Church, Migdalia Mojica, told the Wall Street Journal that
the church was a much-loved fixture in the neighbourhood.
"Everybody just knew them to be a family church," she said. "That's
just a great loss."
The church recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.