Explosion Death Toll Stands at 8, FDNY Says Debris Sifting Continues

Police said Friday that no one else is missing in the rubble of two buildings that were destroyed by a deadly gas explosion in upper Manhattan two days ago, but the FDNY said it is still clearing debris with painstaking care in case there are more victims.

The FDNY said it was about 60 to 70 percent through the wreckage of the two five-story buildings that collapsed Wednesday morning and killed eight people at 116th Street and Park Avenue; authorities hoped to finish removing the ruins Saturday. Crews brought in a backhoe and a bulldozer for the search and used sound-detecting devices to check for signs of survivors, while searchers poked telescopic video cameras into small voids in to see if anyone was buried alive in the rubble.

The final walls left standing from one of the two buildings were demolished Friday. 

The FDNY said it would continue to use heavy equipment and high-tech gear to sift through the rubble as firefighters search for any potential victims who may not have been reported missing.

"We're still going to treat the site like there may have been somebody in there," FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.

Cassano said the debris is being removed, laid out on the sidewalk and combed through for remains. From there, it is taken to Randall's Island for forensic study as part of the collapse investigation. A gas leak is the suspected cause, but authorities have not found the source.

FDNY Chief of Department Edward Kilduff said most of the victims were found about 20 feet into the pile, on the left side. The medical examiner said the cause of death in at least two cases was blunt impact injury.

The NTSB, which probes pipeline explosions as well as transportation disasters, says the pipe in question is still intact. The agency said Friday it was planning pressure tests on the gas lines along 116th Street and along Park Avenue in coming days, in hopes of finding the source of the leak.

NTSB says its investigation will also include an examination of Con Edison's handling of customer complaints, the oversight of Con Edison by federal and state officials, and any evidence of possible third-party damage from digging, among other things.

President Clinton visited the ruins Friday and met with recovery workers.

The Red Cross said nearly 70 people, half of them children, are displaced. Mayor de Blasio announced Friday the city was working to provide temporary housing, including arranging for apartments near the explosion zone to be made available temporarily while long-term housing arrangements can be made.

Seven of the eight victims killed in the explosion have been identified as Griselde Camacho, 44, Carmen Tanco, 67, Rosaura Hernandez, 22, Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, Alexis Salas, 22, and George Amadeo, 44. The eighth victim has not been identified. 

More than 70 people were hurt.

The Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring air quality in the area. As high winds kicked up more debris and smoke Thursday, the mayor said the Health Department is recommending residents in the immediate area limit time outside and keep their windows closed.

The Department of Education said 40 students with asthma returned home Thursday morning from a school located about two blocks away. The school was working with families and handling each student on a case-by-case basis.

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