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7 dead, 65 hurt as NY buildings collapse

Last updated on: March 13, 2014 19:56 IST

7 dead, 65 hurt as NY buildings collapse

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Rescuers on Thursday combed through the rubble of two flattened Manhattan apartment buildings for bodies and survivors as the death toll rose to seven with over 65 people injured and nine others missing.

The two buildings at 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem housing residential units and shops, collapsed after a huge explosion yesterday morning, just minutes after occupants complained of gas leak.

The bodies of two men and a woman were pulled from the rubble overnight. Earlier, four bodies were extricated from the debris.

New York's Fire Department said a seventh victim was pulled out of the rubble on Thursday morning.

The number of injured from the incident has gone up to over 65 and at least nine people were still missing even as fire department personnel were on the scene "actively putting out pockets of fire."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had on Wednesday described the incident as a "tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people."

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Image: Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the site of a building collapse in Harlem, New York
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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7 dead, 65 hurt as NY buildings collapse

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The impact of the explosion had downed the two buildings and there was also a "very heavy impact" on the surrounding complexes as well.

The explosion jolted the East Harlem neighbourhood, shattering windows, sending people running on the streets as clouds of smoke arose and threw debris on the nearby rail tracks which led to the suspension of trains coming in and out of Manhattan's Grand Central terminal.

The two buildings, century-old, five-story brick structures, had housed 15 apartments, a church and a piano store. The explosion also severely damaged a neighbouring four-story building.

Among the dead was Carmen Tanco, 67 and Griselde Camacho, a 44-year-old security guard at a local college in Manhattan. A law-enforcement official identified the third fatal victim as Rosaura Hernandez, 21, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Several children were among those injured. A day after the explosion, city officials said smoke was still rising from the rubble and a portion of one of the levelled buildings was on fire.

Authorities have said that preliminary evidence pointed to the explosion being triggered by the gas leak.

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Image: Firefighters go through debris and rubble at the site of a building collapse and fire in Harlem, New York
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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7 dead, 65 hurt as NY buildings collapse

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The explosion sparked reminders for some New Yorkers of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 that brought down the TwinTowers while some witnesses said it felt like an earthquake.

At about 9:13 am (local time) on Wednesday, utility company Consolidated Edison (ConEd), which supplies gas and electric service to city areas, had received a report of gas odour from the site of the explosion.

The company had dispatched crews to the site but they reached just minutes after the explosion.

Blasio had said that Con Ed will be shutting down all gas mains going into the building, a detailed and complicated process that requires digging up the ground and a lot of manual labour to turn off all the different supplies of gas to the building. 

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Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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