Death Toll Hits 7 in Harlem Blast; 9 Still Missing

Search efforts continue; 7th body pulled from rubble this morning

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 13, 2014 6:21 AM CDT | Updated Mar 13, 2014 7:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – The death toll is climbing and hit seven this morning after authorities say a suspected gas leak blew up two apartment buildings in Harlem yesterday, just minutes after a customer called to report the smell of gas. At least 63 are wounded, and more deaths could come as two survivors suffered life-threatening injuries and another nine are still missing, CNN reports. As authorities continue to sift through the wreckage, the fire commissioner tell ABC News that rescue dogs have not detected the scent of any other victims. A Con Ed rep confirmed a customer call came in at 9:13am and crews responded two minutes later; they arrived just after the explosion, the New York Times reports.

One man said the utility company told him to leave his building, and he was in the lobby when he heard the blast. Pianos flew through the air in a store on the ground floor of one of the buildings, WABC reports. "They flew off the ground and for me to get out I had to get around them," said a technician, who somehow escaped the building—which collapsed into a pile of rubble before the Fire Department arrived around 9:33am—with just scratches. Elsewhere, people were trapped in cars encased by debris. "It felt like an earthquake had rattled my whole building," said a man nearby. "There were glass shards everywhere on the ground, and all the stores had their windows blown out." Along with the piano store, the two buildings comprised 15 apartments and one church, the Times notes.

Firefighters continue to investigate and remove debris from an explosion in Harlem, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Firefighters continue to spray water on the smoldering debris from an explosion in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
In this photo provided by Shane Kennedy, smoke rises from the site of an explosion and building collapse in the East Harlem neighborhood, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/Shane Kennedy)
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