FDNY: all accounted for in East Harlem explosion - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

FDNY: all accounted for in East Harlem explosion

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E. 116th St. & Park Ave. Courtesy: @TeamRW_ E. 116th St. & Park Ave. Courtesy: @TeamRW_
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) - Those missing in the deadly gas leak explosion in East Harlem were accounted for, said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano on Friday. A total of eight people were declared dead.

Smoke continued to billow from the rubble that was the result of an explosion that toppled two apartment buildings on Wednesday morning. More than 60 percent of the debris had been removed from the site by Friday afternoon, said Cassano.

The National Transportation Safety Board was brought in to help assess the cause of the leak. Investigators said the main gas line under the street was intact and the cause would now turn to the interior of the buildings.

At least 68 people were injured when 1644 Park Ave. and 1646 Park Ave .collapsed.

More than 250 firefighters and dozens of emergency personnel responded to the scene on Park Ave. and East 116th St.

The Department of Environmental Protection said it was monitoring air quality in the area following the massive explosion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has urged residents of the immediate surrounding area to limit their exposure to the blast site, to stay indoors and to keep windows closed.

The fire reached five alarms and left charred rubble and debris in the residential neighborhood. Firefighters spent much of the following day day putting out flames.

More than 48 hours later, smoke continued to billow from the pile.

One of the victims was identified as Sgt. Griselde Camacho, a public safety officer at Hunter College, the school announced. Camacho worked at the Silberman School of Social Work building on East 119th St. and Third Ave., just a few blocks from the blast site. Police confirmed that Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental assistant who lived in an apartment at 1644 Park Ave., also died.

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The FDNY said that at the scene at least two people suffered serious life-threatening injuries, five had serious non-life-threatening injuries, and 20 had minor injuries. Medics brought the wounded to Harlem, Metropolitan, Mt. Sinai and St. Luke's hospitals.

One of those seriously hurt is a 15-year-old boy who suffered severe burns and underwent surgery at Harlem Hospital.

An off-duty police officer and two FBI agents in the area on unrelated business suffered injuries. No firefighters, medics, or other responders were hurt, the Mayor's Office said. 

"The agents injuries are not life threatening and they are expected to make a full recovery," FBI spokesman Chris Sinos said in a statement. Sinos did not elaborate how the agents were hurt or why they were in the area.

Witnesses say they heard a loud blast coming from 1644 Park Ave. at about 9:30 a.m.

"From what we know now the only indication of danger came 15 minutes earlier when a gas leak was reported to Con Ed," de Blasio said.

Firefighters were on the scene by 9:33 a.m. The NYPD bomb squad also responded.

Surrounding buildings were also impacted, but were deemed structurally sound.

A resident of the neighborhood told FOX 5 News there was a strong smell of gas last night surrounding the building.

Con Edison has crews -- about 70 workers -- on the scene and shut down gas service from an eight-inch gas pipe to the buildings. They also shut down all gas and electric service to buildings in the immediate area between East 116th and East 117th Streets on the west side of Park Avenue, as well as on the north side of East 116th Street near Park Avenue.

"Con Edison responded to 1652 Park Ave. just before the explosion occurred. A resident called at 9:13 am. The resident indicted the odor might have been coming from outside the building," said Con Ed representative Sidney Alvarez.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is chartered to probe significant accidents involving pipelines, sent a "go-team" to join the investigation. The board's Robert Sumwalt told reporters that investigators will build a timeline of events, look into Con Edison's operations regarding of gas odor reports, and the condition of the pipeline itself.

A Red Cross shelter for residents impacted by the gas explosion was initially set up at P.S. 57 at 176 E. 115th St. On Thursday, the NYPD announced the shelter was relocated to 175 East 125th Street. Anyone needing assistance with shelter was urged to contact 311.

It is possible that some of the unaccounted for got out safely form the blast site, but haven't checked in with family or authorities.

Anyone looking for a loved one who remains missing should call the Unified Victim Identification System at 311, said de Blasio.

De Blasio urged anyone impacted by the blast to seek help regardless of their immigration status.

"Anyone affected by this tragedy will be helped -- anyone, regardless of immigration status," de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday. "And it's very important to get that message out. I ask all of you to help spread that word clearly to people. Regardless of immigration status, anyone affected can come forward for help. They should not be afraid. We intend to help everyone."

Metro-North Railroad suspended service into and out of Grand Central Terminal because debris littered the elevated train track. By late afternoon on Wednesday, service was restored but delays and crowding persisted.
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