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Part of NYC Building Collapses

April 25, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Part of a Manhattan commercial building collapsed Thursday following a possible boiler explosion, injuring more than three dozen people.

``It was a giant boom _ a real giant boom,″ said neighborhood resident Bill Beek, who lives a half-block away. ``It sounded like an airplane crashing.″

Several victims, at least one believed to be in serious condition, were taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital and the Cabrini Medical Center for treatment. Other victims, bloody and bandaged, sat on curbs waiting for transportation.

There was no immediate report of any fatalities. Windows were blown out along the block _ West 19th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues in the city’s the Chelsea section.

Fire Department spokeswoman Amanda Schmidt said it appeared some type of explosion was the cause of the collapse. Preliminary police reports indicated there may have been a boiler explosion in the basement just before 11:30 a.m.

Scott Bonilla, a student at the nearby Apex Technical School, said he was inside the building when it began shaking.

``They told us to rush out of the building,″ he said. ``There was like an explosion ... and I ran out of there.″

Law enforcement officials said did not appear to be an act of terrorism.

``It was just a really loud noise,″ said Stuart Markowitz, who runs the school’s education department. ``Some of our windows did get blown out.″

All students in the school were safely evacuated, he said. Initial reports that the collapse took place at the school itself were not true, he said.

Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for the city Office of Emergency Management, said the building had various commercial tenants including a sign company.

More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene.

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