New York: Rescuers today 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 this 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 yesterday had described the incident as a “tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people.”
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.
The explosion sparked reminders for some New Yorkers of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 that brought down the Twin Towers while some witnesses said it felt like an earthquake.
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