New York on alert after 'intentional' explosion leaves dozens injured
Police remove pressure cooker from scene as witnesses share accounts
Published 18/09/2016 | 07:22
An explosion in New York City left 29 people injured and police have removed a second device at a nearby site.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the blast an "intentional act," but said there was no terrorist connection.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials said investigators had ruled out a gas leak as the cause of the blast, but they stopped short of calling it a bombing and declined to specify precisely what they believed may have triggered the explosion.
"Tonight, New York City experienced a very bad incident," he said at a news conference near the scene in Chelsea. "We have no credible and specific threat at this moment. "
UPDATE: The suspicious device on West 27 Street in Chelsea has been safely removed by the NYPD Bomb Squad.— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) September 18, 2016
He said the blast was "an intentional act" but tried to calm any fears among nervous New Yorkers, saying there was no evidence of a link to terrorism, and no connection with a pipe bomb explosion earlier on Saturday at a New Jersey charity run.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the second device that officers were investigating four blocks from the scene appeared to be a pressure cooker attached to wiring and a mobile phone.
The source said the device was found inside a plastic bag on West 27th Street.
The official said the explosion appears to have come from a construction toolbox in front of a building. New York officials said the incident was not due to a gas leak, as some initial reports had suggested.
Photos from the scene show a twisted and crumpled black metal box.
The blast happened on West 23rd street, in front of a residence for the blind, near a major thoroughfare with many restaurants and a Trader Joe's supermarket.
Neha Jain, 24, who lives in the neighborhood, said she was sitting at home watching a movie when she heard a huge boom and everything shook.
"Pictures on my wall fell, the window curtain came flying as if there was a big gush of wind," she told Reuters. "Then we could smell smoke. We went downstairs to see what happened, and firemen immediately told us to go back."
Police said a sweep of the neighborhood following the blast had turned up a possible "secondary device" four blocks away consisting of a pressure cooker with wires attached to it and connected to a cell phone.
CNN, citing law enforcement sources, reported that a piece of paper with writing on it was found nearby.
Residents living nearby were advised to stay away from windows facing the street as a precaution, and the item was later safely moved to a police firing range for further examination, officer Christopher Pisano said.
Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said several people were taken to hospital with injuries. One of those hurt suffered a puncture wound that was considered serious. He said the other injuries were minor, described as scrapes and bruises.
Police spokesman J Peter Donald tweeted a warning to residents near the second site that officials are investigating, saying: "As a precautionary measure, we are asking residents who live on West 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan to stay away from windows facing 27th Street until we clear the suspicious."
A number of New York City subway routes were affected by the explosion.
Chris Gonzalez, visiting from Dallas, was having dinner with friends at a restaurant in the area.
"We felt it, we heard it, the restaurant went real quiet, the 26-year-old said. "It wasn't like jolting or anything, everyone just went quiet."
Rudy Alcide, a bouncer at Vanity Nightclub at 21st Street and 6th Avenue, said he, at first, thought something large had fallen.
"It was an extremely loud noise, everything was shaking, the windows were shaking, it was crazy," he said. "It was extremely loud, almost like thunder, but louder."
The FBI and Homeland Security officials, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arson and explosive task force are also at the scene.
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The White House said President Barack Obama has been told of the explosion and will be updated as additional information becomes available.
In St Cloud, Minnesota, police said multiple people were injured at a shopping mall on Saturday evening in an attack that possibly involved both a shooting and stabbing. The suspect was believed to be dead.
Hillary Clinton said she has been briefed "about the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the attack in Minnesota."
The Democratic presidential candidate said the nation needs to support its first responders and "pray for the victims".
She said: "We have to let this investigation unfold."
Her Republican rival Donald Trump declared a "bomb went off" in New York before officials had released details.
He made the announcement minutes after stepping off his plane during a rally at an airport hangar in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I must tell you that just before I got off the plane a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows what's going on," Mr Trump said.
He continued: "But boy we are living in a time - we better get very tough, folks. We better get very, very tough. It's a terrible thing that's going on in our world, in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant."
The reports of a possible blast come hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners participated in a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. No injuries were reported.