A loud explosion that shook the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan Saturday night was “an intentional act” that injured 29 people, according to New York authorities.
New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared the explosion outside 131 West 23rd Street was deliberate, speaking to reporters on the street near the scene of the blast. DeBlasio emphasized, however, there was no known terrorist involvement in the explosion.
“There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection to this incident, this is preliminary information, it’s something we will be investigating very carefully, there is no evidence at this point of a terror connection,” he said.
He said police and other security officials were not aware of any current terrorist threat to the nation’s most populous city. World leaders have been descending on New York for days, preparing for the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting this week.
New York authorities are also investigating an unexploded device found at West 27th Street, blocks from where the explosion occurred. Bomb squad personnel safely removed a device that appeared to be a pressure cooker attached to a cell phone and wires in a plastic bag.
The explosion in Chelsea frightened hundreds of people and blew out windows. The blast was centered in a metal container about two meters square, described variously as a trash container or a tool-storage container used by workers renovating a nearby building.
None of the injuries were “life-threatening,” police said, although one person was reported to be in serious condition.
Subway and bus service passing the area was halted, and police closed off a large area of midtown Manhattan to all traffic. Hundreds of police and firefighters were at the scene of the explosion.
Police said they had video of the explosion recorded by surveillance cameras, but they did not discuss details of the images.
The fashionable Chelsea neighborhood that was the center of the intensive police search is just south of midtown Manhattan, including both the U.N. complex and Times Square, and several kilometers north of New York’s financial district and the site of the former World Trade Center.
The blast at about 8:30 p.m. (0030 UTC) was heard hundreds of meters away, and it created a chaotic scene and mass confusion. One of the buildings adjacent to the spot where the explosion occurred was a home for the blind. Police urged residents of the building to stay indoors for their own safety.
Police searched cars parked near the mangled metal container, and helicopters flown by officers floated above the area hunting for clues to what happened.
The New York blast came hours after a pipe bomb exploded in a trash bin in a New Jersey beach town Saturday, forcing the cancellation of a charity foot race involving thousands of runners. DeBlasio said the two incidents were unrelated.
No injuries were reported, but authorities in Seaside Park, New Jersey, called off the “Seaside Semper Five,” a five-kilometer race meant to raise money for U.S. military personnel. The event was hosted by members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Authorities said three pipe-bomb-type devices wired together were found near the boardwalk. Only one of the devices was believed to have detonated.