A gas leak caused a townhouse in Rockland County to explode Monday afternoon, injuring four people, including two firefighters, and sending residents running for their lives.
"I went running to my kids' room ... screaming to get out," said Natalie Lowry, who lives near the West Haverstraw home that was reduced to timber.
Two firefighters were near the townhouse on Zarriello Lane investigating reports of a gas leak when the blast occurred shortly after 12:30 p.m..
“They knocked on the door at 52 Zarriello right before the explosion,” said Orange and Rockland Utilities spokesman Michael Donovan. “No one answered so we assume no one was home.”
The firefighters were brought to Westchester Medical Center as other first responders battled to get the blaze under control and to contain further explosions. Nearby homes were evacuated after the blast, which leveled the townhouse.
"All of a sudden, a huge explosion, debris and everything ... I saw two firemen down ... flames everywhere," said Orlando Rodriguez, who took his entire family out of his home and drove down the block when he heard the explosion.
Rockland Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said it began with a response to a routine gas leak, believed to be when a contractor working for Verizon disrupted the gas line. Wren said the main ruptured, then the gas went into the sewage system and seeped into houses.
"A contractor on a Verizon project was doing underground work in the area and appears to have hit a gas line," said Verizon spokesman John Bonomo. "The contractor reported the matter promptly to 911 and the gas company (O&R), and began assisting in notification and evacuation of nearby residents."
Power in the area was shut down as some residents remained without homes. Other residents of the West Haverstraw community said they were given no warning at all.
"They evacuated one side of where I live and then the other side," Alysia Rodriguez told NBC New York. "But not where I live."
About 90 homes were evacuated as a precaution, according to the Red Cross. The Red Cross set up a reception center at a nearby bowling alley, the Hi-Tor Lanes.