December 15, 2017

New York Blast ‘Was Intentional Act,’ Police Say; 29 Injured

A fire crew works at the scene of an explosion in New York’s Manhattan borough, Sept. 17, 2016. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

New York authorities are investigating a device found blocks from where an explosion occurred earlier in Manhattan.

Reports say the device on 27th Street appears to be a pressure cooker attached to a cell phone and wires in a plastic bag.

Police asked residents who live nearby to stay away from windows facing 27th Street.

Earlier, a loud explosion that shook the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan Saturday night was “an intentional act” that injured 29 people, according to New York authorities.

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared the explosion was deliberate during a late-night news conference on the street near the scene of the blast. However, DeBlasio emphasized that there was no known terrorist involvement in the explosion.

He said police and other security officials were not aware of any current terrorist threat to the nation’s largest city. World leaders have been descending on New York for days, preparing for the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting that starts during the coming week.

Despite the assurance that no terrorist group was believed to be behind the explosion, police and the mayor confirmed that officers were searching another site four city blocks from the scene of the explosion for “a possible secondary device.” No further details were available.

The explosion at 131 West 23rd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, frightened hundreds of people and blew out windows. The blast was centered in a metal container about two meters square, described variously as a trash container or a large tool-storage container used by workers renovating a nearby building.

Police and fire teams converged on an area in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, N.Y., after an explosion was touched off, Sept. 17, 2016. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Police and fire teams converged on an area in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, N.Y., after an explosion was touched off, Sept. 17, 2016. (E. Sarai/VOA)

None of the injuries were “life-threatening,” police said, although one person was reported to be in serious condition.

Subway and bus service passing near 23rd Street was halted, and police closed off a large area of midtown Manhattan to all traffic. Hundreds of police and firefighters were at the scene of the explosion.

A police officer gives instructions to a passer-by as other police and fire crews work near the scene of an explosion in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, Sept. 17, 2016. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

A police officer gives instructions to a passer-by as other police and fire crews work near the scene of an explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Sept. 17, 2016. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

Police said they had video of the explosion recorded by surveillance cameras, but they did not discuss details of the images. Senior officials said it was determined that the blast was not caused by a natural-gas leak, or any fault in the underground gas mains that run throughout the largest U.S. city.

The fashionable Chelsea neighborhood that was the center of the intensive police search is just south of midtown Manhattan, including both the United Nations complex and Times Square, and several kilometers north of New York’s financial district and the site of the former World Trade Center.

The blast at about 8:30 p.m. (0030 UTC) was heard hundreds of meters away, and it created a chaotic scene and mass confusion. One of the buildings adjacent to the spot where the explosion occurred was a home for the blind. Police urged residents of the building to stay indoors for their own safety.

Police searched cars parked near the mangled metal container, and helicopters flown by officers floated above the area hunting for clues to what happened.

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