As cold, stiff winds blew across the still-smoldering debris, construction equipment with iron jaws picked up the rubble, first depositing it on the pavement, then hoisting it onto trucks that hauled it away. Clouds of thick smoke swirled over Park Avenue.
The mayor told firefighters carrying grappling hooks and other equipment, "I can only imagine, knowing that at any moment you might find a body, how difficult that is."
Police identified six of the dead: Griselde Camacho, 45, a Hunter College security officer; Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist who took part in church-sponsored medical missions to Africa and the Caribbean; Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, a musician; Rosaura Hernandez, 22, a restaurant cook from Mexico; George Ameado, 44, a handyman who lived in one of the buildings that collapsed; and Alexis Salas, 22, a restaurant worker.
Mexican officials said a Mexican woman, Rosaura Barrios Vazquez, 43, was among those killed.
The body of an eighth person, a woman, was pulled from the rubble on Thursday.
At least three of the injured were children. One, a 15-year-old boy, was reported in critical condition with burns, broken bones and internal injuries.
The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they got there too late.
Con Ed CEO John McAvoy said the call had been correctly categorized as low priority. "A single person calling that they smelled gas outside of a building is not something that would warrant a fire department response," he said.
After the disaster, a number of neighborhood residents said they smelled gas on Tuesday but didn't report it. A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings, Ruben Borrero, said that residents had complained to the landlord about the gas odors on Tuesday and that fire officials were also called a few weeks ago.