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3 Dead, Several Missing After Explosion Levels Buildings In East Harlem (page 3)

Gas Leak Reported Just Before Blast That Also Left At Least 70 Injured

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The Investigation

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said fire marshals were on site and will determine <exactly what sparked the blast.

“Right now, they can’t get anywhere near the source of ignition,” he said. “Once we get through the debris and the rubble, we will get down into the basement and see where we think it was ignited.”

The FDNY said it will remain on the scene throughout the night and well into the next several days to secure the scene and search for those who remain missing.

The NYPD said there is no indication of terrorism at this point. The FBI was on the scene and the National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to help in the investigation as well.

WATCH: Explosion Heard 40 Blocks Away

During an evening news conference National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said the agency will construct a timeline of the event.

“We’ll look at the oversight of Con Edison by federal and state officials; regulatory officials, and we’ll look at the possibility of any damage, any damage at all, from third party digging.”

He said the gas pipeline that exploded was “a distribution pipeline that operates at a relatively low pressure, and it’s natural gas, so that’s what we’re dealing with right now.”

Sumwalt said the NTSB will investigate any possible earlier complaints of gas leaks in the building.

“We’re looking at all the reports. We’re looking at Con Edison call logs to see when the first calls started coming in,” he said. “That will definitely be part of our investigation.”

Con Ed itself will also be looking into the explosion, said spokesman Bob McGee.

Con Ed plans “to bring in a camera to examine the main to determine where there might have been a problem,” McGee said.

Several surrounding buildings were evacuated, though none were evacuated due to structural stability concerns, according to the mayor’s office.

A full vacate order was issued for for 95 East 116th St., a one-story commercial building, and 1642 Park Ave. due to fire damage and firefighting operations.

Eight apartments of 91 East 116th St. and 18 apartments of 1648 Park Ave. were also evacuated due to proximity to the site and firefighting operations.

Earlier in the day, a drone could be seen flying over the area, Champion reported.

“We’ve been seeing a drone flying above the building,” Champion said. “We assume that it is investigators getting a better vantage point of some of the damage that’s been done by this explosion.”

Metro-North said the explosion happened adjacent to their tracks. Service in and out of Grand Central Terminal was suspended for most of the morning and afternoon, but was later estored.

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