No one knows if the building exploded first and then collapsed or if it collapsed first and then an explosion occurred after. People could be trapped in the rubble.
From the AP:
NEW YORK — A three-story building housing a doctor’s office just off Madison Avenue collapsed and burned Monday after what witnesses said was a thunderous explosion that rocked the neighborhood.
The cause was not immediately known, though White House press secretary Tony Snow said there was no and was desponindication of terrorism.
At least two people were under evaluation at a hospital after the collapse. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was still trapped inside the building, on 62nd street between Madison and Park Avenues on Manhattan’s East Side.
Heavy black smoke rose high above the building, wedged between taller structures on 62nd Street between Park and Madison Avenues just a few blocks from Central Park. Damage, including shattered windows, could be seen at one of the adjoining buildings.
Yaakov Kermaier, 36, a resident in a building next door, said he was outside when he heard “a deafening boom. I saw the whole building explode in front of me.”
CNN is reporting that the explosion and fire caused the collapse:
NEW YORK (CNN) — An explosion and fire leveled a residential building on New York’s Upper East Side Monday morning, fire officials and eyewitnesses told CNN.
At least one person was transported to the hospital, New York firefighters told CNN personnel on the scene.
Ann McGovern, a neighbor across the street from the three-story E. 62nd Street location, told CNN she “witnessed two bloody people exiting the building just minutes after the explosion.”
The New York Fire Department received a call reporting the explosion at 8:40 a.m., department spokeswoman Emily Rahimi said.
Smoke from the fire could be seen across Midtown and Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
There were doctors’ offices and residences in the building.
New York police were also on the scene.
CNN’s Larry King was in a hotel nearby at the time of the explosion. He said it felt like an earthquake.
“I’ve never heard a sound like that,” King said.
Update: Fox News just announced that a US counterterrorism official from the Pentagon says that this incident is not terrorism related.
Update II: Allah reports that the building pancaked down on itself.
Update III: WCBS-TV in New York reports that Con Edison was investigating the smell of gas nearby when the building exploded.
Update IV: Fox is reporting that officials are investigating a possible suicide attempt. A doctor who worked in one of the offices, and who was pulled out of the wreckage and is in critical condition, may have been attempting suicide.
Update V: NY1 News has more on this suicide story. The doctor wrote an email indicating he was thinking about suicide.