Death toll in New York City explosion stands at eight

March 14, 2014 at 2:11 PM
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NEW YORK, March 14 (UPI) -- The death toll from an explosion that leveled two buildings in New York's East Harlem neighborhood stood at eight Friday as rescuers continued to dig.

President Bill Clinton, who has an office in Harlem, visited the scene, the Wall Street Journal reported, and talked to rescue workers.

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference that investigators had been unable to get into the basement area because of standing water.

While the explosion is believed to have been the result of a gas leak, no official determination has been made.

Conditions at the scene were difficult.

"It's just like working on Ground Zero again," a firefighter told the New York Post. "The smoke in your face, digging through the rubble for bodies. It's a tough job."

The eighth body was found Thursday evening, more than a day after the massive explosion. Officials said most of the dead lived in the two five-story buildings, which had apartments, a church and a piano store.

At least 60 people were injured.

A Con Edison spokesman said someone called Wednesday morning shortly after 9 a.m. to report a gas leak. The utility dispatched a truck immediately, but by the time it arrived the buildings had been leveled.

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