East Harlem explosion: Latest updates

An eighth body was found by rescuers Thursday evening, according to a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Rescuers are continuing to search for survivors in the rubble of the two East Harlem buildings that were destroyed in a gas-triggered explosion.

At a news conference updating the rescue and recovery efforts, Con Edison’s chief executive said there was a “high likelihood” the blast could have been prevented had additional residents called about a gas leak.

Con Edison’s John McAvoy said the utility received a call about the leak less than 20 minutes before the blast. “Had calls come in earlier than that, the likelihood of us being able to address it is good because we address calls like this all the time,” he said.

Seven people were killed and more than 40 injured in the East Harlem explosion that leveled two buildings Wednesday, and the search continues for several people who are unaccounted for, city officials said. The FDNY confirmed the recovery of a seventh body Thursday morning.

Five people have been declared definitively missing, police said. Another six people have been reported missing by callers to 311, according to police.

Calling this a “painful 26 hours,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday afternoon that the fire and rescue operations continued despite “exceedingly difficult conditions.” De Blasio said the rescue efforts will continue for an “open-ended period of time.”

The mayor urged anyone searching for missing family members to call 311. He said anyone would be helped, regardless of immigration status.

Eighty-nine residential units and three businesses have been vacated from seven surrounding buildings, de Blasio said. Sixty-six people have been displaced from their homes to a temporary shelter.

A Mount Sinai Hospital official said the hospital admitted 26 patients from the blast as of Thursday morning. Nineteen of the 26 patients have been discharged, and one remains in critical condition with a head trauma, the official said.

1644 and 1646 Park Ave. were destroyed in the explosion. FDNY Chief of Department Edward Kilduff said Thursday that the biggest threat to the building was a free-standing wall that had burned overnight. Kilduff said the debris had been cut down overnight by at least one floor. Debris on the nearby tracks led to Metro-North to suspend service for hours on Wednesday.

Two FBI agents were among the injured, although those injuries were not life-threatening, according to the FBI.

De Blasio said Thursday that it was “too early” to know what caused the explosion, but Con Edison said on Wednesday that they were treating it as a gas leak.

A report of a gas odor from a resident at 1652 Park Ave. came at 9:13 a.m. Wednesday, according to Con Edison. Crews were dispatched at 9:15 a.m. “and arrived just after explosion,” the utility said in the tweet. Con Edison officials said Thursday that they had not received any calls about gas in the days before the explosion.

A Con Edison representative said on Thursday afternoon that they received two prior calls in the last three years about gas on that block, and he said both were fixed on the same day they got the call.

The first call reporting the explosion to 911 Wednesday morning was at 9:31 a.m. and the first firefighting unit was on the scene at 9:33 a.m., said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. De Blasio praised the fire department response as “incredibly fast.”

Con Edison shut down gas to five neighboring buildings after the explosion, and the gas was still off Thursday morning.

Officials said there were six residential units in one building and nine in the other that were destroyed by the explosion.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommended East Harlem residents stay indoors, if possible, and all dusty clothing should be washed.


With Newsday