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28 Treated, 9 Hospitalized After Carbon Monoxide Incident In Hempstead

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Officials say illegally installed heaters are to blame for a carbon monoxide leak in a fully occupied apartment building on Wednesday morning.

Nearly 100 evacuated tenants are unable to return home.

CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff spoke to one tenant who was gathering what little she could for the next two weeks after carbon monoxide wafted through 15 apartments at 545 Front St. in Hempstead.

Starting at daybreak, fire officials responded to the 911 calls of dizzy residents, entering the building to find high levels of the dangerous, odorless gas.

"Before I even hit the door my meter was going off. I found two residents in a back room that were passed out," Hempstead Fire Department 1st Asst. Chief Kyle Bowles said.

Watch: Hempstead Officials On Carbon Monoxide Incident:

A woman and baby were overcome by potentially deadly fumes. Tenants were immediately evacuated. In all, 28 tested positive for exposure, with nine of them were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Hempstead village officials blamed gas-fired heating units, adding they were illegally installed in each apartment, some in closets and cupboards, Gusoff reported.

"These heating units, there were no permits applied for. Because the pipes were not connected right. It was able to emit the CO gasses throughout the building," village trustee Waylyn Hobbs said.

At a shelter set up by the Red Cross for the nearly 100 who were in need of emergency housing, tenants told officials the building was recently converted to heating units in each apartment. Because they are now billed separately for gas service, they could not afford to turn on the heat often.

"He was using the heat intermittently because of the expense," Nassau County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe said.

Village officials didn't mince words about the way they say the heaters were improperly installed.

"I believe that this landlord took advantage of the fact that he had residents that were afraid to report such violations," Hobbs said.

Added Charles Renfroe, the deputy mayor of Hempstead: "The things that's happening to these apartment here with these slumlord that we have here is unacceptable. Had this happened at 2 o'clock in the morning it would have been a disaster."

Officials said disaster was prevented and they will now work to fortify village code to require annual safety inspections, instead of every three years.

Village officials identified the landlord as Pebble Lane LLC. The owner could not be reached for comment.

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