29 injured in 'intentional' New York City blast
NEW YORK, USA (6th UPDATE) – At least 29 people are injured after an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City on Saturday, September 17 (Sunday, September 18 in Manila).
The explosion happened around 8:30 pm local time, outside 131 West 23rd Street, at what is usually a busy time of the weekend in an area packed with bars, restaurants and luxury apartment blocks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city's brand-new police commissioner said there was no known link to terror at this stage, scrambling to reassure the city's 8.4 million residents that there was no specific threat.
"There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection to this incident, this is preliminary information," de Blasio told reporters.
"There is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time, from any terror organization," the mayor said.
Of the 29 people wounded in the incident, 24 have been taken to hospitals with various degrees of scrapes and abrasions from glass and metal, said Fire Department commissioner Daniel Nigro.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, but local media reports suggested that it had ocurred in a dumpster.
Witnesses living 3 blocks away told Agence France-Presse they heard a large boom from their fifth floor apartment, followed by quiet, then the sound of sirens.
Chelsea is one of the most fashionable districts of Manhattan.
US President Barack Obama "has been apprised of the explosion in New York City, the cause of which remains under investigation," said a White House official, adding that the president will receive updates on the situation as they become available.
An Agence France-Presse journalist at the scene said police had sealed off the area and shut down the closest subway station. Police helicopters circled overhead.
A photograph shared by New York's local NY1 television station showed shattered glass in a doorway, apparently caused by the blast.
New York officials were tight-lipped on the cause of the blast, saying it was still under investigation but confirmed it had not been a gas leak.
"We believe it was intentional. As soon as we're able to determine what specifically caused this explosion, we will report it to you," de Blasio said.
"I want to assure all New Yorkers that the NYPD and all other agencies are at full alert and that our anti-terror capacity in particular is at full alert," he said.
The city, which is America's entertainment and financial capital, already has stringent security checks in place at public buildings and routinely goes on alert following militant attacks in other US cities or in Europe.
FBI and counter-terrorism units were among those who deployed to the scene Saturday, officials confirmed.
James O'Neill, who took over as New York police chief only on Saturday after veteran commissioner Bill Bratton resigned, described the explosion as "large" and said it happened outside 131 West 23rd Street at 8:30pm.
The building has not been evacuated but an "extensive search is being conducted," O'Neill told the news conference.
Police said they were investigating a possible secondary device four blocks away from the scene of the explosion, on 27th Street.
The blast comes after a pipe bomb exploded in a garbage can in Seaside Park, New Jersey during a Marine Corps charity run. It caused no injuries but forced officials to cancel the event.
The New Jersey explosion was set for the moment that thousands of runners would be passing the can - but there were no casualties because the race was delayed, said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor.
There were up to 4 timed explosives but only one detonated, Fave told CNN – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com