After an eighth body was extricated from the rubble of two buildings in East Harlem that were leveled by an explosion, fire and safety officials began narrowing in yesterday on what might have caused the blast.
With all of the missing now accounted for, investigators revealed that combustible levels of natural gas had been detected underground near the site on Park Avenue a few hours after Wednesday morning’s explosion.
Crews from Consolidated Edison drilled 50 holes in the ground and, in five of them, found air containing five to 20 percent methane, said Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board.
“That’s a pretty good concentration of natural gas,” said Sumwalt, whose agency is investigating the explosion, which also injured about 60 people. “It further leads to our hypothesis that this may well have been a natural-gas leak.”
Normally, no methane would be found in the soil of New York City, he said.
The source of any leak, however, remains unknown. Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio that emergency personnel are expected to reach the basement of one of the buildings and clear it of water and other debris by this afternoon, enabling inspections of the gas pipes.
SOURCE:Marc Santora and Patrick McGeehan
The New York Times