NEW YORK (AFP) - Twelve people were hurt on Thursday when a New York building collapsed and a large blaze tore through a second property, which was also in danger of falling down, the fire department said.
Three of the injured were in a critical condition as a result of the emergency just after 3pm in Manhattan's popular East Village neighbourhood on Second Avenue, a spokesman told AFP.
The cause of the incident and how many people may have been inside the adjoining buildings at the time were not immediately clear.
Thick smoke filled the street and emergency workers shut down six blocks on Second Avenue, said an AFP reporter at the scene.
A property at 123 Second Avenue collapsed and a fire broke out at 121 Second Avenue, which was also in danger of collapse, the fire department spokesman told AFP.
The fire department described both buildings as mixed commercial-residential property with businesses on the first floor and residential apartments on the upper floors.
The spokesman described the collapse as "complete."
"I was really scared," said a 19-year-old who lives several blocks away and was listening to music at home when he felt a boom.
"I went out, people were starting to look to Second Avenue," he told AFP.
"I saw the flames and the fire fighters arriving. The response was very fast."
The smell of burning was detected as far away as Midtown Manhattan, around 40 blocks farther north, and heavy smoke billowed high into the air.
Hundreds of fire fighters were coming and going, sirens blaring, and police officers were also on the spot.
Just over a year ago, eight people were killed when a gas explosion leveled two apartment buildings in Harlem in northern Manhattan on March 12, 2014.
The East Village is one of the most popular areas of New York, home to a large number of students and wealthy professionals, and stuffed with boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs and cafes.