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Firemen watch as work crews remove debris from the smoking site of an explosion in East Harlem on March 13 in New York City. At least eight people were killed in Wednesday's explosion that collapsed two buildings on Park Avenue at East 116th Street. / John Moore, Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City investigators on Sunday hope to uncover the cause of an explosion that flattened two apartment buildings and killed eight people.

City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said investigators should be able to get to the gas pipes and meters in the front of the buildings' basements. Arson detectives and fire marshals have been waiting to enter the basements to examine meters, check pipes and inspect any possible ignition sources that might have caused the blast.

The theory that Wednesday's explosion was due to a gas leak gained momentum Friday after the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline accidents, said underground tests conducted in the hours after the explosion registered high concentrations of natural gas.

More than 60 people were injured in the explosion, and more than 100 others were displaced.

Truckloads of scattered material will be sifted for any traces of human remains that might not have been found at the site, Cassano said. Although the bodies of all eight people reported missing have been recovered, the rescue operation was continuing in case others may be buried beneath the rubble, he said.

Mexican officials said two Mexican women were among those killed.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the explosion had anything to do with the city's aging gas and water mains, some of which were installed in the 1800s.

Fire and utility officials said that if the buildings were plagued in recent days or weeks by strong gas odors, as some tenants contend, they have no evidence anyone reported it before Wednesday.

The blast erupted about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. Con Edison said it immediately sent utility workers to check out the report, but they got there too late.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Firefighters reach basement of NYC blast site

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