A residential apartment building collapsed and was engulfed in flames on 26 March in New York City's East Village neighbourhood, critically injuring at least one person, authorities said.

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion, and local television footage showed the building fully ablaze, with just remnants of its brick facade intact. Flames leaped high into the sky amid thick plumes of dark smoke.

A spokeswoman for the Con Edison utility company said crews were on the scene but had not determined whether there had been a gas explosion. She said gas supplies were being cut to buildings in the immediate area as a precaution.

One person was injured critically and other injuries were possible, said the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

NY1 television reported at least 12 people were injured, four of them critically.

Residents said the ground floor of the building at Second Avenue and East 7th Street housed a sushi restaurant. It is located in Manhattan's East village, a neighbourhood of small businesses, restaurants and apartments.

Local television reported an adjacent building was also on fire.

Reports of the collapse came in shortly after 3.00pm, the FDNY said. The FDNY declared it a seven-alarm fire.

The five-story building housed 26 apartments and was built in 1900, according to online real estate sites.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch from behind police barricades, and dozens of emergency vehicles were on the scene.