Mayor de Blasio’s Thursday Afternoon Press Conference Transcript

March 13, 2014 Updated: March 14, 2014

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Mayor Bill de Blasio: Now we’re here to give you updates on what is obviously a very tragic situation. And we continue to pray for all of the families involved. This has been a very painful episode for the people of East Harlem. And there’s still a lot of unknowns here, and that only adds to the difficulty for people.


So we’ll talk about the information we have, and we’ll make clear throughout this briefing, there are still things we don’t know. There’s still people missing, there’s still information we need, but we’ll give you everything we can right now. I want to say out the outset, the response by the fire department and all the other agencies involved has been extraordinary. I hope the people of East Harlem and the families and all of the people affected take some solace in the fact that every effort has been expended to address this crisis and search for their loved ones.


I want to thank those who are with me today – Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, OEM Commissioner Joe Bruno, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, our acting Buildings Commissioner Tom Fariello, the Health Department Assistant Commissioner Tom Matte, from the Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Commissioner James Roberts, from Con Edison, CEO John McAvoy, and then two of my colleagues in public office, of course the speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents the area that was affected, who lives just blocks away, whose district office is literally around the corner, and who has taken an exemplary role and lead in providing help to people who have been affected. Her office has become a staging area and a place where people have been going for help. And I know her constituents deeply appreciate all she has done. I also want to thank Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, who represents the area as well and has been both a good friend and actively trying to help all of the affected people.


Let’s give you the latest on what is obviously a fatal explosion, serious loss of life and building collapse in East Harlem. It’s been – I said a painful 26 hours now. Everyone involved in the rescue effort has given their all. I was up today meeting with some of the first responders. They’ve been fighting through the cold, they’ve been fighting through the wind. Exceedingly difficult circumstances, and they have stuck with it. As you know, the wreckage is still smoldering. At various points the fire got whipped up a little bit again by the wind. And despite all that, our first responders from the FDNY, from EMS, from the NYPD, all the agencies involved, continue to do what they do so consistently. No matter what is thrown at them, they keep fighting. And they’ve done an exemplary job.


The city is no stranger to adversity, and our first responders exemplify what’s best about New York City – that we somehow persevere despite everything thrown at us. And their training, their professionalism came out so clearly in these last 26 hours, and we’re all entirely grateful for that.


The rescue operations have continued. As we know, there’s been confirmed additional loss of life, but we are continuing rescue operations, hoping to find others still alive.


And let me caution to everyone here – to everyone watching at home – that these rescue operations will continue for an open-ended period of time. There will be disruption in the immediate area because we have to continue this rescue operation. We’re very devoted to it.


At the same time, an investigation is underway to understand exactly what happened here. These operations will continue for days as we continue to both do the rescue and learn all we can learn. And we will give updates as we learn more. But here’s what we know right now. Tragically there are seven people now confirmed dead. The identities of two of the victims have been released. They are Griselde Camacho and Carmen Tanco. The identities of the others have not yet been released pending family notification.


Approximately 40 people have been treated and transported by EMS to nearby hospitals, including Harlem Hospital, Metropolitan, Mt. Sinai and St. Luke’s.  Among our first responders, thank god, there have been no injuries. In terms of those still not located – either missing or not yet located, not yet identified – anyone who’s trying to find a family member or loved one who might have been in the immediate area of the explosion yesterday can call 311 and ask for the Unified Victim Identification System. Call 311 and ask for the Unified Victim Identification System. We’ve had about 200 calls so far. Anyone outside New York City searching for a loved one can call 212-639-9675. Again, 212-639-9675.