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Reports Of Gas Leaks On The Rise In Wake Of Fatal East Harlem Blast

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Residents living near a pair of East Harlem buildings claim that they smelled gas in the area the night before a deadly explosion.

City officials said that it wasn't reported soon enough, CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

"There was a smell of gas. it would come and go so I though it was from the corner store and they told me they would look into it," church owner Carmen Vargas Rosa said.

Now, across the city reports of gas leaks are up.

"For the first 12 days of March we were averaging about 40 night calls coming into the department. Yesterday we had about 90," FDNY Commissioner, Sal Cassano, said.

Officials highlighted the importance of reporting the smell of gas which can be a signal of a leak. Natural gas is odorless, but a smell similar to rotten eggs is an added warning.

"A very pungent odor easily detected by the sense of smell," Carl Krause, Marplat-Platsky Plumbing and Heating, said.

Krause said that residents should never hesitate to report the smell of gas to their utility immediately.

"That's part of the tariff that they are regulated to come out and ensure your safety," Krause said.

Mayor Bill De Blasio echoed those sentiments.

"If there's something that we need to remind ourselves of at this moment, it's that if you smell gas, at any hour, any day, even for five minutes, report it to Con Ed or report it to 311," the mayor said.

On Long Island, where rare gas explosions have leveled homes installers advised residents to leave the area and call their utility. They also said not to turn on any switches.

"They don't want you creating any kind of spark, a light switch will do that, a wall mounted telephone will do that, door bells will even do that," Todd Tuohy, Universal Appliance, said.

Officials said that a sound like a roaring or hissing could indicate a gas leak as could cloudy, misty, or bubbling water. They added that you should never assume that someone else will report the condition and that if gas is detected in the neighborhood  you should report it immediately.

Con Ed said that the average response time for a report of gas in the city is 22 minutes.

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