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

Two people are still missing after a gas explosion caused the partial collapse of a building in New York, injuring 22 people.

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.

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.

I just pray my brother shows up. We just hope my brother comes back.
- Tyler Figueroa

The couple were paying for their meal when the blast occurred. Mr Figueroa's date, who is in the hospital, recalls stumbling out of the building before losing consciousness.

Nicholas Figueroa's brother Tyler, 19, said: "I just pray my brother shows up. We just hope my brother comes back."

The second person who is unaccounted for has not been identified.

Four people injured in the fire are said to be in a critical condition. Television footage showed casualties being carried on stretchers from the wreckage at 125 Second Avenue, where the lower two floors had reportedly caved in.

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.

A plumber was carrying out a gas service upgrade, but the work was failed by Con Edison inspectors about an hour before the explosion. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said someone may have "inappropriately accessed" a gas line before the blast.

Among those who lost their homes in the blast was former Sopranos actress Drea de Matteo.

The 43-year-old posted photos of the scene on Instagram with the caption: "A hole where my NYC home of the last 22 years once stood."