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New York explosion that injures 29 is called an intentional act, but no link to terrorism is seen

A powerful explosion Saturday night in New York City and another one earlier in the day in the nearby resort town of Seaside Park, N.J., set nerves on edge.

The explosion in New York’s Chelsea district caused 29 injuries, one serious. Authorities said that the blast was apparently intentional, but that there was no immediate evidence of terrorism.

The explosion in New Jersey was caused by a pipe bomb planted along the route of a charity 5-kilometer race.

The blasts do not appear to be linked.

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In a late-night news conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, joined by local and federal law enforcement officials, said there was no evidence connecting the Chelsea blast to terrorism.

“There is no specific and credible threat against New York City from any terror organization,” De Blasio said.

The explosion occurred about 8:30 p.m. on 23rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

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The cause was unclear, though authorities ruled out a natural gas blast.

De Blasio said there was no evidence linking the blast to the pipe bomb in New Jersey.

The New York Daily News reported that police were investigating a possible second device in a pressure cooker found a few blocks away on 27th Street.

“It had to be a bomb,” said Steven Ochs, 43, who was eating paella inside a Spanish restaurant when the blast hit. “There was just one big explosion, no smoke or fire, but the smell of gunpowder was present. There was one big, big explosion. Then there were all these dust particles swirling around. It was a scene of chaos and madness.”

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The blast, Ochs said, appeared to come from street level — consistent with reports that it came from a dumpster — and it blew out the windows of passing cars and an adjacent mid-rise apartment building.

Ochs saw one older man who was bleeding, apparently injured by flying glass. A video he took on his phone showed traffic stanchions and garbage blowing around the street as though in a whirlpool.

Police cordoned off six square blocks of the fashionable Chelsea neighborhood and closed some subway lines.

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“It is very unsettling after everything that has happened in New York,’’ said Chandler Buning, 23, who stood shivering in a sundress near the roadblock, unable to get back to the Hilton Hotel where she had been staying.

Buning said she and her friends had heard the explosion from inside the hotel. “It was this very loud noise that wasn’t your typical New York kind of noise. At first we didn’t take it seriously, but then we heard the sirens and the helicopters overhead.”

About an hour after the New York explosion, before authorities had discussed the incident, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told supporters at a Colorado rally that “a bomb went off” and America must get tough on terrorism.

“I must tell you that just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on. But, boy, we are really in a time — we better get very tough, folks,” Trump said in Colorado Springs.

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No injuries were reported in the blast that shook Seaside Park around 9:30 a.m., shortly before thousands of runners were to participate in the race to benefit Marines and sailors.

According to the Associated Press, officials would not say whether they believe the incident was terrorism-related. The pipe bomb was in a plastic garbage can when it exploded.

The race had been scheduled to start shortly before the blast occurred, but it was delayed because of the large number of people registering and reports of an unattended backpack. Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor’s office, told AP that if the race had started on time, a “good number of people” would have been running past the area where the explosion occurred.

barbara.demick@latimes.com

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

Demick reported from New York and Finnegan from Colorado Springs.

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UPDATES:

10:35 p.m.: This article was updated with eyewitness accounts and other details.

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9:25 p.m.: This article was updated with more information and to report 29 people were injured in the New York explosion

8:25 p.m.: This article was updated with more information about the investigation.

8 p.m.: This article was updated with an account from a witness and other details.

7:20 p.m.: This article was updated with the number of people injured.

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6:45 p.m.: This article was updated with a City Council member saying the FBI was on scene.

This article was originally published at 6:30 p.m.


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