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Fire officials scour site of massive NYC blast

Members of the destroyed Spanish Christian Church joined worshipers at the Church of God on Third Avenue Sunday.

Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

Members of the destroyed Spanish Christian Church joined worshipers at the Church of God on Third Avenue Sunday.

NEW YORK — Workers cleared some of the last rubble from the site of a massive explosion in New York City on Sunday, allowing arson detectives and fire marshals to enter the basements of the two destroyed buildings to examine gas pipes, meters, and any possible ignition sources that might have caused Wednesday’s blast.

A pair of congregations gathered at services to mourn the eight people killed in the explosion. One congregation lost its church, which was located in one of the ruined buildings. Yet another congregation lost two members in the blast.

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Members of the Spanish Christian Church, which was on the first floor of one of the buildings, held a three-hour service at the Church of God, which is a few blocks from the blast site.

At Bethel Gospel Assembly, tears mixed with the sounds of gospel music as the congregants remembered Griselde Camacho and Carmen Tanco, who were killed in the explosion.

‘‘We feel the void,’’ said Michelle Robinson, the church’s business administrator. ‘‘Both women were very active members.’’

Tanco often served as an usher at the 1,300-member church and would greet her fellow congregants at the door, Robinson said. ‘‘We are a family and we’re all just missing the big hugs she used to give,’’ she said.

Tanco also helped serve breakfast at the church every Sunday morning, often bringing fresh fruit from her home.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said the women ‘‘were examples to all of us’’ because of the faith and spirit they demonstrated.

‘‘We will not let you fall,’’ de Blasio said, speaking at a podium with a screen above him displaying photos of the women. ‘‘We are all a family in the end.’’

De Blasio also praised the emergency responders who felt the explosion and ‘‘ran into the fire, ran into the danger because they knew they might be able to save one life.’’

A fund-raising drive will be launched to help those affected by the explosion, de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, told the crowd. The money will support a relief plan that includes a victims’ assistance fund to go toward funeral arrangements, rent, and household expenses. The plan also includes counseling and outreach to immigrant communities.

At the Church of God service, several dozen members of the destroyed Spanish Christian Church fell into each other’s arms amid tears and faint smiles.

For some, it was their first encounter since Wednesday’s catastrophe.

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