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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Search finds precious few NY survivors

MASS TOMB Despite the best efforts of emergency crews, it's mostly bodies being pulled from rubble in New York and the city's mayor fears the death toll will be in the thousands

REUTERS , NEW YORK

A hospital worker beset with grief and exhaustion takes a moment to rest as she waits for the next wave of victims to arrive at St. Vincents Hospital in Greenwich Village, just north of the World Trade Center site.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

Hopes were fading yesterday that more survivors would be found from an attack two days earlier that demolished the World Trade Center towers, now feared to be a mass tomb where thousands may be buried.

The preliminary death toll had reached 94 by early yesterday but was expected to rise sharply in the days and weeks to come.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there are 4,763 people missing, 94 bodies recovered of which 46 have been identified and 70 body parts. He also said 2000 people had been taken to New York hospitals.

Coordinated attacks leveled the landmark 110-story twin towers on Tuesday, stunning the world.

In a feverish around-the-clock search for survivors, hundreds of emergency workers used everything from heavy machinery to their bare hands to sift through tonnes of crushed concrete and twisted steel. Sniffer dogs searched the rubble of what had been a symbol of America's financial power.

The results of the monumental rescue effort were dismal. As anxious families anxiously waited to find out what happened to their loved ones, only three people were found alive in searches all day Wednesday. Another two survivors were discovered on Tuesday.

New Yorkers were only beginning to comprehend the enormity of the catastrophe.

The city of eight million was eerily quiet on Wednesday, and residents were palpably nervous and police stepped up their presence on the streets.

About 1,500 National Guard troops were deployed and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was stationed a few kilometers away off the south coast of Long Island.

At the site of the disaster, bright searchlights lit the hellish ruins to allow searches throughout the night.

"It's burning inside. It's like Dante's Inferno," said rescue worker Giuseppe Sergi. "There is fear that the temperature is too high, so the metal may still collapse."

The sidewalks and streets surrounding flattened buildings were strewn with mangled cars, demolished rescue equipment and personal belongings. Thick layers of dust and paper that rained down after the explosions covered dozens of blocks.

Southern Manhattan below 14th Street was shut down.

In the center of the complex was a huge crater filled with tangles of metal beams. Firefighters with flashlights in hand walked gingerly over the beams and dug with their hands.

"They are searching anything open like this," said Chief Peter Rice pointing down into a crater. "A void that someone might have fallen into."

FBI agents were on site looking for criminal evidence.

Rescuers used motion detectors to search for survivors and construction equipment to remove tonnes of still smoldering debris.

Toward the end of a grueling day for emergency workers, One Liberty Plaza, a 54-story building nearby, appeared in danger of collapse and the area was evacuated. The owners said later that the building had suffered no structural damage.

In wrenching scenes, panicked family members rushed from hospital to hospital looking for missing relatives. Weeping and supported by two friends, Daphne Bowers went to Bellevue Hospital with a small framed picture of her missing 28-year-old daughter Veronique.

"She called me and she said, `Mommy, the building is on fire. There's smoke coming through the walls. I can't breathe," the distraught mother said. "The last thing she said was `I love you, Mommy, goodbye,' and that was at 9:05."

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