Firefighters go through debris and rubble at the site of a building collapse and fire in HarlemReuters

New York police department has said that two women were killed and 17 injured in the east Harlem building collapse

The development came as federal officials said that early indications are that the six-story Upper Manhattan apartment building collapsed as a result of a gas explosion.

The blast hit 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, east Harlem, reportedly owned by the Spanish Christian Church.

The owner of the church Carmen Vargas-Rosa , said there was a gas smell at the church Tuesday night.

Bob Mcgee, of the energy company ConEdison, confirmed that neighbours called the company to report smelling gas at 9:13am. The blast took place 17 minutes later.

Harlem Hospital said they were treating one person with heavy trauma and expecting at least one more.

East Harlem residents told WABC television they heard a loud noise and saw smoke in the area. Some said they heard a "thundering noise" like a building collapse.