Emergency workers respond to the scene of an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, March 12, 2014.
Emergency workers respond to the scene of an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, March 12, 2014.
NEW YORK -
Explosion in Harlem, New York
Explosion in Harlem, New York.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says at least three people are dead and nine still missing after a blast caused by a gas leak destroyed two buildings in Harlem.

At least 63 people were hurt.

"This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people," said Blasio.

The mid-morning explosion occurred in Harlem shortly after one resident in a nearby building reported the smell of leaking natural gas. The utility serving the neighborhood, Consolidated Edison, said it dispatched two crews to the scene but that they arrived just after the explosion.

Thick smoke from the buildings could be seen throughout much of Manhattan. Debris littered sidewalks across the neighborhood and covered part of a commuter rail line, suspending train service.

More than 200 firefighters responded to the five-alarm fire that followed the blast, with many of them perched on ladder trucks aiming high-pressured hoses at the demolished buildings.

Both buildings collapsed to the first floor and debris from the explosion littered sidewalks for blocks.

The site of the explosion is adjacent to railroad tracks, and mainline train services out of the city's Grand Central terminal were suspended as a result.

Some information for this report comes from AP and AFP.