The blast shook the East Harlem neighborhood on Wednesday morning,
shortly after a resident complained to the Con Edison utility about
a gas odor.
Since then, authorities have parsed the smoking pile of bricks and
twisted metal that at one point was three stories high in an effort
to find any remaining victims.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which reviews
natural gas-related accidents, said in an afternoon news conference
that it would be overseeing pressure tests and interviewing people
involved in the response through the weekend and into next week.
Meanwhile, the city's fire department said it is still in the
process of removing and sifting through the debris, and that it
hopes to have the area cleared by Saturday.
"We have eight victims found at this point. We are still in rescue,
recovery operations," said New York Fire Department spokesman Brian
Norton. "We do not stop until we are 100 percent sure there is
Search-and-rescue efforts will continue on Friday even though there
are no known persons still missing, police said.
Five women and three men were killed, police said on Friday, but not
all victim identities have been released. The latest was female and
pulled from the rubble late on Thursday.
The dead include Griselde Camacho, 44, a public safety officer for
Hunter College in East Harlem; Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist;
Rosaura Hernandez, 21, and Andreas Panagopoulos, 43.
At least three children were hurt; two were treated for minor
injuries and released, while the third was more seriously injured,
hospital officials said.
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Con Edison said that gas odor complaints have increased three-fold
since the accident.
The two buildings in a largely residential block at East 116th
Street and Park Avenue housed 15 apartments, a ground-floor church
and a piano store.
Passersby in the primarily Latino neighborhood donned dust masks or
wrapped winter scarves around their faces to limit inhalation of
dust and smoke.
The main, low-pressure gas distribution line that runs along Park
Avenue was still intact, the NTSB said. Service lines carry gas into
buildings from that main pipe.
(Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson;
editing by Mark Heinrich
and Gunna Dickson)
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