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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
Building collapses in Manhattan
Collapsed building

At least 15 people have been injured after a building on Manhattan's Upper East Side collapsed after a huge blast.

New York's fire commissioner said he believed a gas explosion had caused the collapse early on Monday morning.

Fire officials rescued a man from the rubble of the building, which is said to house a doctor's surgery and a beauty salon.

Authorities are investigating the possibility that the blast was caused by a suicide attempt.

New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said a doctor was pulled from the rubble after speaking to emergency workers via mobile phone.

"There was a communication from inside the building earlier. That leads us to believe there is the potential that it was a suicide attempt," he told ABC News.

Reports suggest the doctor had sent an e-mail about his intentions to a colleague, although Mr Scoppetta did not provide further details.

Smoke rose high above the four-storey building, located between Park and Madison Avenues, local media reported.

"This could have been an even worse disaster than it already is," Mr Scoppetta said.

Hundreds of firefighters were on the scene shortly after the fire was reported at 0840 local time (1240 GMT).

Of the 15 injured, 10 were said to be fire fighters and five were civilians. At least three people have been taken to hospital, including a firefighter with neck and back injuries.


Local resident Barrett Williams told the BBC he was woken up by the blast.

"I awoke to a loud window-shaking bang and heard a good 15 minutes of emergency vehicle sirens. Much yellow smoke on closer examination of affected building just to the south of my own," he said.

Injured firefighter is carried on a stretcher
The injured included a fire fighter as well as passers by, authorities said
Yaakov Kermaier, who lives next door, told the Associated Press news agency that he heard a "deafening boom. I saw the whole building explode in front of me."

Thad Milonas, who was operating a coffee cart across from the building, told AP the ground shook and the building came down.

"In a few seconds, finished. The whole building collapsed," he said.

The White House said the collapse did not appear to be connected to terrorism.

A power company, Con Edison, said they were on the scene at a building next door, responding to a report of a smell of gas when the blast occurred.

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