NEW YORK -- The death toll from a gas explosion in Manhattan that leveled two buildings on a busy street rose to seven Thursday after rescue teams worked through the night searching for people trapped beneath rubble.
Officials at the scene have not identified all of the victims, but at least three were women who lived in one of the collapsed structures. They included Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist who was in her apartment when the blast occurred; Griselde Camacho, 44, a public safety officer at Hunter College in Manhattan who had taken the day off; and Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 21.
The block on 116th Street in east Harlem, where two five-story buildings blew up at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, remained closed nearly 24 hours later. Dozens of residents had spent the night in a Red Cross shelter set up nearby.
At a news briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials said a gas leak was the cause of the blast. The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates pipeline explosions, had a team in place to try to determine what caused the leak, whether there had been previous complaints about gas odors, and whether Consolidated Edison had properly responded to calls.
Someone had called the utility company at 9:13 a.m. Wednesday to report gas odor. A team of inspectors was dispatched two minutes later, Con Ed President John McAvoy said, but it got there too late.
De Blasio said at a news conference Wednesday that there was not enough time between the first call coming in and utility crews being dispatched to save anyone. Some residents, though, have said they had called to complain about gas odors in the area earlier in the week.
City officials were due to give an update on the investigation later Thursday.
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