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Senators visit families of victims in New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- One of the largest groups of U.S. senators ever to travel together outside Washington arrived in New York Thursday to tour the wreckage of the World Trade Center and console the families of the victims.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly urged lawmakers to visit the site in order to understand the scope of the disaster, and what help will be needed for recovery.

Led by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the 38-member delegation traveled by train to Manhattan's Penn Station, arriving amid a heavy police presence. The state's senior senator, Charles Schumer, was already in New York but planned to travel back with his colleagues.

Anita Dunn, Daschle's spokeswoman, said security and logistical reasons -- not fear about airline safety -- was the reason the senators took a chartered train.

A boat will take the senators to the Lower Manhattan disaster site, where they planned to talk with relief workers and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

"I think it's important that they actually see it, because the pictures don't convey the real sense of horror," New York Gov. George Pataki told CNN.

Later, the senators were expected to visit victims' families in New Jersey.

Also arriving in town Thursday was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who flew to the United States from Paris. A day after French President Jacques Chirac commended New York's public safety officials at the disaster site, Blair planned to visit a Midtown police precinct and fire house to pay tribute to the people there.

The fire house -- Engine Company 8 and Ladder Company 2 -- lost eight firefighters in the twin tower attacks.

Blair then planned to attend a church service at nearby St. Thomas Church, in memory of the hundreds of British citizens who died.

The confirmed death toll in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center stands at 233, with 170 of those victims identified. But Giuliani said 5,422 people remain missing.

"We're obviously extremely disappointed that we haven't been able to recover anyone alive," Giuliani told ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday, eight days after the last survivor was pulled from the rubble.

He added, "We're always going to be looking."

The mayor estimated at least 180 days of "very intense cleanup" remained to be done. Already, workers have removed 60,000 tons of structure and debris, he said.

Giuliani's eyes Thursday were also on the city's financial health. He joined Nasdaq Chairman Frank Zarb for the market's opening amid a continued Wall Street sell-off in the wake of last week's attacks.

At the disaster site, Giuliani said, workers were proceeding carefully to ensure the giant sea wall surrounding the underground levels of the World Trade Center complex was not in danger of flooding.

Some engineers have theorized that removing too much debris from the basement would compromise the wall's support and allow the water from the Hudson River to rush in.

The mayor said engineers had tested the wall from outside, and that it appeared structurally sound.

"But we don't know what it looks like from the inside, and that's the concern," the mayor said. "We have to proceed very, very carefully." Larry Hawthorne with the Army Corps of Engineers discounted reports of flooding in the seven-story basement. He said their structural engineers had told workers at the site to be careful where they placed their cranes and heavy equipment, so as not to threaten the wall's supports.

"We were pointing out different potential problem areas," he said. "They may want to be careful of that and make sure the supports are not in that area. I believe they have taken heed to that."

The city was planning a prayer service for 3 p.m. Sunday at Yankee Stadium for the families of the World Trade Center attacks. Jumbo television screens will simulcast the event elsewhere in the city, the mayor said.

He said it was too early to have a city-wide memorial, in part because it would strain the already stretched police and National Guard forces working long shifts at the disaster site.

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