New York Building Blaze
An explosion at the commercial property caused the five-storey building to collapse and the neighbouring buidling to erupt into flames.Reuters

A body has been found after three Manhattan apartment buildings were destroyed in a gas explosion last week.

More than 30 fire units responded to the incident on 26 March as 130 fire-fighters battled to contain the blaze in the five-storey structure in Manhattan's East Village.

Two people were reported missing after the blast which left 22 people injured, four critically.

One of the people reported missing was identified as Nicholas Figueroa, a 23-year-old who was on a date at a sushi restaurant that suffered the full impact of the explosion.

The other is Moises Lucon, 26, who worked at the restaurant.

Rescue crews looking through the smouldering rubble with search dogs for the pair found one body in the rubble. The body has not yet been identified, said officials.

An investigation into the cause of the explosion which levelled the Sushi restaurant is underway. It has emerged that "hazardous" gas leaks were discovered in one building seven months ago.

Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) company spokesman Allan Drury said multiple leaks had been discovered in hoses that had been connected to the gas line leading to a restaurant in the building, creating a "hazardous situation".

It's believed that gas intended for the restaurant was being siphoned off illegally for use in newly renovated apartments upstairs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the blast was possibly tied to someone "inappropriately" tapping into a gas line.

Con Ed inspectors visited the building about an hour before the explosion and decided work to upgrade the gas service did not pass inspection. They locked the line to ensure it would not be used and then left, officials said.

Fifteen minutes later, the sushi restaurant's owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who telephoned the general contractor, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

Investigators are looking into whether gas and plumbing work being done privately in one of the buildings led to the explosion.

Witnesses described a scene of pandemonium as the emergency unfolded, near New York University.

A day after the explosion, fire-fighters were still putting out pockets of fire and pouring water over the rubble.