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Fire officials and New York City police officers working through the night to search for survivors from the gas explosion and building collapse in East Harlem yesterday morning have confirmed that the death toll is now at a staggering seven.

According to the New York Times:

Just after midnight, they found a fourth victim. Around 2:30 a.m. they recovered a body so badly burned that the person could not yet be positively identified. Less than an hour later, they found another body. As the sun rose, yet another body was recovered. In all, fire officials said, seven people are confirmed to have died in the blast and its aftermath and at least five people remain missing.

In addition, more than 60 people were injured after a gas leak triggered the explosion, causing the collapse of 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue. Two people remain in critical condition, including a 15-year-old boy. Others were treated and released.

The blast was said to be so strong it could be felt a mile away. Metro-North trains were suspended to avoid fallen debris on the tracks. And the powerful explosion blew out windows of neighboring buildings and sent debris cascading down onto nearby streets.

Rescue efforts were further hindered by a large sinkhole that developed in front of the buildings, which limited the use of heavy machinery.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that a water main break, which caused the sinkhole, might have played a role in rupturing a gas line, officials said. However, it remained unclear whether the water main broke before or after the explosion.

Residents in neighboring buildings, which were said to be structurally sound, were still unable to return home on Wednesday night because power and gas had been turned off. It was unclear when they would be able to go home.

As of Thursday, the search for survivors continues. Mayor Bill de Blasio is scheduled to meet with emergency medical workers at the site on Thursday morning and provide an update on the investigation at 11 a.m.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest. Our prayers and condolences to those who lost loved ones in this devastating fire.


Explosion Causes Two Buildings To Collapse In Harlem (PHOTOS)
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