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8 Confirmed Dead In East Harlem Gas Explosion; Active Scene Remains

Investigation Into Blast Begins; More Than 60 Hurt, Others Still Missing
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Intense recovery efforts and a complex investigation were under way Thursday at the scene of the gas explosion in East Harlem, as authorities identified more victims and searched for those still unaccounted for.

An eighth body — that of a woman — was pulled from the blast site Thursday evening, authorities told 1010 WINS.

That comes in addition to seven others confirmed dead, in the blast that also injured more than 60 others. An unspecified number of people were still missing.

Rescuers found three bodies on Wednesday and four more between midnight and Thursday morning. One of the still-unidentified people is a man, and genders are not know for the other two.

All but one of the victims has been identified.

Officials confirmed the identity of Andreas Panagopoulos Thursday.

A close friend, Evangelos Alkimos, told the Associated Press he went with Panagopoulos’ wife to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office and described his friend as a “very creative” and “amazing” musician who played guitar and keyboard.

Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios

Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios was one of at least eight people killed in the East Harlem building explosion on Wednesday, March 12. (Credit: CBS 2/Twitter)

Also among the dead are Griselde Camacho, 45; Carmen Tanco, 67; George Amadeo, 44; Alexis Salas, 22; Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 21; and Rosaura Barrios Vasquez, 44, who is Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios’ mother.

On Thursday evening, the wind kept candles from being lit at a vigil a block from the scene. Clergy and neighbors prayed for strength for the prolonged grief and long recovery.

Through the day, the smoke was still billowing from the site on Park Avenue off 116th Street, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported. Many loved ones were also still waiting for word from the missing.

Firefighters remained on the scene all day, putting out hot spots and continuing to search for the missing, CBS 2′s Tracee Carrasco reported.

It was a massive job after Wednesday morning’s gas explosion rocked the neighborhood – leveling two buildings – including the Spanish Christian Church.

“It’s God’s will,” said the Rev. Thomas Perez, pastor of the church. “Although we won’t understand His doing, but we have the peace he gave us. And we just trust it’s going to be better.”

Search And Recovery Efforts Continue

As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, extreme cold and whipping, bitter winds slowed down an already slow and meticulous process of carting away debris at the scene.

Crews were using tiny cameras and sound-detection tools, hoping to find someone alive.

Crews used heavy machinery to help in their efforts Thursday. Firefighters trucked piles of debris to Randalls Island, where investigators will again sift through it, searching for clues to help in the investigation.

About 40 to 50 percent of the debris from the explosion had been removed by Thursday night, CBS 2 reported.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials toured the blast site Thursday morning as firefighters continued to put out hot spots.

“As we know, there’s been confirmed additional loss of life, but we are continuing rescue operations,” Mayor de Blasio said.

He praised the work of first responders, who have been battling the bitter cold and thick smoke to clear a path to victims.

“I can only imagine knowing that at any moment you might find a body, how difficult that is,” he told firefighters at the scene.

PHOTOS: East Harlem Explosion | The Day After

Using backhoes and a bulldozer, crews had worked through the night under bright searchlights in hopes of finding someone alive.

“This is a difficult job, a challenging job,” FDNY spokesman Jim Long said, calling it “a very terrible and traumatic scene.”

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