7 Dead, 5 Still Missing in NYC Explosion

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Rescue workers remove an injured person on a stretcher following a building explosion and collapse in East Harlem, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in New York.
Image: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Seven people are dead in East Harlem this morning as recovery efforts continue through the rubble of the two buildings that collapsed on Wednesday. The body of the seventh victim was found at 7:12 a.m., according to the FDNY. Five people are still missing.

The major explosion that shook uptown New York City around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday was the result of a gas leak. Residents of 1646 Park Ave., one of the two five-story apartment buildings that crumbled, say they called 311 last month when nauseating gas smells permeated the building.

“The first time was unbearable,” Ruben Borrero, who lives in the building, told Mashable at the scene on Wednesday. “You walked into the building, and you had to walk straight back out. It was that bad.”

City officials, however, say the first tip they received of the gas leak was call to Con Edison that came in around 15 minutes before the explosion.

The map above shows the location of the two buildings the collapsed in East Harlem on March 12.

Among the victims are two women who lived in the buildings and worked for a church blocks away. Another, 45-year-old Griselde Camacho, was a sergeant for Hunter College’s public safety office. Building resident Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 22, also died.

Minutes after the buildings tumbled, thick smoke and a sulphuric smell crept through the neighborhood. Firefighters struggled throughout the day to extinguish the blaze and start searching for victims. At least 65 people were injured, 27 of those were transported to hospitals.

Shattered glass, wood shards and pieces of broken brick covered the sidewalks blocks away from the site. Layers of dust enveloped vehicles parked on the street. Portions of the elevated Metro North train tracks were covered in debris, leading to a temporary shutdown and continued delays on Thursday.

The Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at a nearby school. More than 100 people lined up for food and counseling Wednesday afternoon. The shelter remained open throughout the evening for those who didn’t have a place to sleep.

“This is going to be an extended operation,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference hours after the blast. “This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people.”

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