One minute, Colin Patterson was watching TV. The next, he saw pianos flying through the air in the shop where he works as an explosion tore through the building.
"They flew off the ground," said the piano technician, who also lives in the building in Manhattan's East Harlem. He told CNN affiliate WABC that he crawled through the rubble and managed to escape unharmed.
At least seven people were killed in the massive explosion and fire Wednesday that leveled Patterson's building and the one beside it.
Nine people remained missing hours after the blast, city officials said. Firefighters were still frantically picking through rubble in search of survivors.
Authorities say they think a gas leak was to blame, but they haven't determined an official cause yet.
The massive explosion and fire leveled two five-story apartment buildings. More than 40 people were reported injured, firefighters said.
More fatalities appeared likely. Fire officials reported that two survivors suffered life-threatening injuries.
Near 116th Street and Park Avenue, once the heart of New York's large Puerto Rican community, about a dozen firefighters tore at two-story-high mounds of bricks in a search for survivors from the two buildings, which housed a piano store and an evangelical church in addition to apartments.
As gas and electric utility workers tore up pavement in an effort to shut gas lines, people gathered in the streets, many crying.
"This is a tragedy of the worst kind," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "because there was no indication in time to save people."
See more at CNN.com.