NEW YORK (AP) — Using sound devices to probe for voices and telescopic cameras to peer into small spaces, workers searching a pile of rubble from a gas explosion in New York City were clinging to the possibility Friday of finding survivors from a blast that brought down two apartment buildings and killed at least eight people.
"We have to think of survivors and work in that way, with hope," said Fire Department of New York Chief Edward Kilduff.
Police said Friday that at least one person remained unaccounted for after the deafening blast Wednesday morning destroyed two five-story East Harlem apartment buildings at Park Avenue and 116th Street that were served by an 1887 cast-iron gas main.
"We are still in a search and rescue mode," a fire department spokesman said.
The work was slow going, with 40 percent to 50 percent of the debris removed by Thursday evening. Kilduff said the fire was still burning, and the force of the explosion collapsed and pancaked layers of floors. A back wall that still freestanding posed a collapse hazard.
Workers continued to remove debris at the site on Friday, and hoped to make it down to the first floor by Saturday, then move on to the basement.
"This is catastrophic. It's devastating and we've had, obviously, a loss of life. So, it is very hard to be here. But it's part of our job to find out what happened so that we can keep it from happening again," said National Transportation Safety Board team member Robert Sumwalt, who was at the scene early Friday.
About a dozen firefighters picked through charred wood and bits of metal in frigid conditions, seeking human remains or anything that could help the investigation. For the first time since the explosion, smoke finally stopped rising from the debris but the smell was still apparent a block away.