MANHATTAN — Two people were still missing Friday afternoon as crews continued to scour the rubble of three buildings that collapsed after Thursday's explosion in the East Village, officials said.
One of the missing people, identified in reports as Nicholas Figueroa, 23, was on a date with a woman at Sushi Park, at 121 Second Ave., about 3:15 p.m. when a gas explosion erupted from the basement, according to the Daily News.
“Right now, we don’t really know what to do. We’re just praying,” Figueroa’s father, Nick, told the newspaper.
A restaurant worker who sources identified as Moises Lucon was also missing.
The blast injured 20 civilians, officials said Friday morning. Four people were critically hurt with burns to their airways, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference after the blast.
Six firefighters were also injured, but not seriously, he said.
The fire damaged four buildings total, and three of them were reduced to rubble. Firefighters will soon begin removing debris, which could take as long as a week to complete, FDNY commissioner Dan Nigro said.
The clean-up process will take longer because firefighters will have to sift through the debris carefully, in case people are still trapped, Nigro said.
"We would treat the scene as if there could be people there," he said.
Thirty of the 80 people who were displaced by the explosion needed overnight housing from the Red Cross which set up a station at 331 E. 10th St. needed overnight housing, officials said.
Sopranos star Drea de Matteo lost her apartment at 121 Second Ave. in the fire.
"A hole where my NYC home of the last 22 years stood," Matteo wrote on an Instagram.
A total of 11 other buildings in the area, including 144 residential units, were evacuated on Thursday due to the fire. The DOB will need to inspect all those buildings before people can inhabit them again, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said during the Friday press conference.
The DOH also determined that air quality has returned to normal, he said.
Investigators were still trying to figure out what sparked the blast. The leading theory is that workers somehow damaged a pipe that was being improperly used to distribute gas throughout 121 Second Ave.
The blast was heard from blocks away, with debris flung onto the asphalt and a column of smoke streaming into the sky.
"It was like a bomb," said Aleksandar Srdic, 32.
"I saw the whole storefront on the street, debris everywhere. I saw at least three people lying on the street, blood everywhere," said Ataur Rahman, 57, a manager at nearby Dallas BBQ.
Neighboring 123 Second Ave. was razed by the explosion, officials said. 121 and 119 Second Ave. partially collapsed in the blast, but crews will have to knock down the walls that are still standing before any debris removal can begin, officials said.
The fire was still smoldering as of Friday afternoon, and once the fire is under control the DOB will survey the scene, officials said.