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World Trade Center scrap steel stolen

By WILLIAM M. REILLY

NEW YORK, Sept. 28 -- New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on Friday said a Manhattan grand jury was investigating whether organized crime diverted 255 tons of steel from "Ground Zero" at the World Trade Center to three scrap yards.

All the building rubble and material from the destroyed World Trade Center buildings is supposed to be taken to Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island where an army of law enforcement officers check the debris looking for evidence, personal items and body parts.

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Police sources told the New York Post that they believe the metal, worth an estimated $15,000, was taken directly to the yards by garbage trucks in the days immediately after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11 before trucks were escorted to Staten Island or to floating garbage barges by police.

The grand jury could charge the suspects with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, theft and conspiracy. The 16-acre World Trade Center area is considered a crime scene.

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According to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, 133,024 tons of material from the World Trade Center has been removed. The mayor estimated that clean up of the area could take up to a year. About 20 cranes, including a 280-foot-tall crane that can lift up to 300 tons were being used at the site to hoist steel beams, concrete and rubble. About 10 percent of the rubble has been removed and taken to Staten Island for analysis.

At the 16-acre World Trade Center site, more than 70 buildings are marked as "Damaged, but Stable, Repair, Cleaning." More than a dozen are listed as having "Major structural damage. No Occupancy." The buildings listed as destroyed are: the World Trade Center twin towers, the adjacent Marriott hotel, and World Trade Center buildings Nos. 3 and 7. It was World Trade Center Building 7 where the city's Emergency Command Center, "The Bunker," burned for days before collapsing. Three other buildings on the main site, World Trade Center Buildings Nos. 4, 5 and 6, are "partially collapsed."

Giuliani said that 4,620 people are registered as missing at the family center, and 5,960 are listed as missing by the police and that the is real total is somewhere in between.

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Six bodies were recovered Thursday raising the number of dead bodies to 306. The mayor said 565 death certificate applications had been filed since Wednesday.

No single-occupant cars entering from New Jersey, Brooklyn or Queens by tunnels or bridges below 63rd Street, were being allowed to the lower part of Manhattan from 6 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. There are exceptions for essential medical personnel, reporters and drivers with permits for the disabled, commercial vehicles, taxis and limousines. There are security checks entering Manhattan as well. Trucks and vans are inspected and paperwork examined.

At the center of Ground Zero, known as the "hot zone," city officials estimate at least 1,000 construction workers and several hundred police and firefighters were digging through the mountain of debris at any one time, day and night.

In the acres of devastation, the workers breathe smoke and ash marked with the odor of decaying corpses. The rescue and recovery workers said it feels like a regular construction, destruction job until a body or part of a body is found. Counselors are available at the site.

The American Red Cross has organized two "respite centers" in the "hot zone, giving workers a comfortable place to rest.

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Located in a college building of St. John's University and on the docked boat the "Spirit of New Yorkship," the Red Cross expanded on the services given at the mobile feeding stations, which offer meals and snacks throughout the work area.

In its first week of service, the center served 900 hot meals on its second day. In the dining area, on each table in between salt and pepper shakers are cards and thank-you letters drawn and written by children from across America.

Showers are available for all workers and a "boot cleaning" station has been set up outside, so the men and women can rinse the dust and mud from their work boots.

"We have all sorts of supplies and clothes here, anything we've heard them say they need," said Bradford Cosenza, manager of the St. John's respite center. "Inside a large classroom, tables are stacked high with work gloves, boots, face masks, respirators, socks, shoe insoles, pants, shirts and toiletries."

Upstairs, where lights are kept low, several sleeping rooms with cots have been established. On each cot is placed a blanket, a full-sized pillow, a "gift bag" from the Red Cross containing toothpaste, a toothbrush and other hygiene items and another thank-you note from a child.

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The centers will remain open as long as recovery work continues. Patrick McCrummen, a Red Cross volunteer from Nashville, Tenn., who helped open the St. John's respite center last weekend, said the workers he's seen are holding up well. "They are tired and hungry, but they clearly feel they have an important job to do," he said. "They are very focused."

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