Searching through the rubble

, Posted: Thu, March 13 2014 at 8:26 AM, Updated: Thu, March 13 2014 at 8:57 AM

New York, N.Y. -- (NBC News) Four more bodies were found overnight in the smoldering rubble of two upper Manhattan buildings leveled by a gas explosion that injured more than 70 people and spewed debris for blocks, bringing the death toll to seven.

Rescue crews brought in a backhoe and bulldozer and were digging through the debris Thursday for more buried victims as firefighters battled flareups in the wreckage of the two five-story buildings that collapsed Wednesday morning.

Five people are still missing.

FDNY Chief of Department Edward Kilduff told Mayor de Blasio Thursday as the mayor visited workers in the rubble that most of the victims have been found about 20 feet into the pile, on the left side.

De Blasio thanked rescuers for their work.

"I can only imagine knowing that at any moment, you might find a body, how difficult that is," he said.

The force of the blast was so strong that it registered on the Richter scale at just under .5, according to Columbia University. Smoke billowed into Central Park and could be seen miles away in midtown, and New Yorkers said they felt rumbles as far away as 150th Street. Closer to the collapse, groceries were knocked from store shelves and an ashy film covered streets, sidewalks and cars.

The explosion knocked out windows of nearby apartment buildings and forced evacuations. The Red Cross said nearly 70 people, half of them children, spent the night at the Salvation Army.

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