By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Emergency crews clearing debris from the site of two New York City apartment buildings leveled in a gas explosion said they expected to reach an underground area on Sunday where natural gas lines could reveal what caused the deadly blast.
Eight people were killed when the five-story buildings exploded in the East Harlem neighborhood early Wednesday, just moments after a resident called 911 to complain of the smell of gas.
On Saturday, crews had removed the majority of the rubble from the flattened buildings and were able to make their first push underground.
Investigators want to reach the front of the basements where gas pipes and meters are located to determine whether a natural gas leak led to the explosion and, if so, what caused the breach.
Consolidated Edison Inc, the utility provider for New York City, said it had workers on hand to assist both the recovery mission and the investigation.
Five women and three men were killed and dozens of other people were injured when the buildings collapsed under the force of the explosion. The structures housed 15 apartments, a ground-floor church and a piano store.
On Saturday, workers removing tons of debris unearthed an intact Bible belonging to the Spanish Christian Church, which lost five members in the explosion.
Seven of the eight victims have been identified.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Scott Malone and Sophie Hares)