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New York rescuers search slowly through the rubble

Emergency workers wash out the eyes of a New York City firefighter near the site of the World Trade Center on Wednesday.
Emergency workers wash out the eyes of a New York City firefighter near the site of the World Trade Center on Wednesday.  

By Gary Tuchman

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Hundreds of buildings are damaged in the area around what was the World Trade Center complex, some of them with huge holes that put them at risk of collapsing themselves.

The damaged buildings, along with some still-standing beams of the destroyed World Trade Center towers that could fall at any time, forced rescue workers to go slowly in their desperate search for more survivors.

On the 75-foot-high wreckage of those twin towers -- still smoking in places from smoldering fires -- more than 1,500 workers climb and dig, hoping to find more survivors. Above them loom 12 buildings with huge holes in them, threatening to collapse. One 20-story building seems as if it would tumble in a heavy wind.

As the rescue workers make their way through the rubble, they carry dishes. It is in those dishes they put the body parts they find.

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Five people were pulled from the rubble Wednesday. A ballroom in a nearby building, set up to receive survivors, was empty Wednesday afternoon.

Another room -- part of a damaged Brooks Brothers store next to the World Trade Center wreckage -- is set up as a morgue. It has some bodies in it, but mostly it has only body parts.

Ellen Borakove, the spokeswoman for New York City's Medical Examiner, said it has about 5,000 body bags in stock and has ordered another 5,000, which will be delivered Thursday.

"That's something we do whenever we have a disaster," she said.

The scene in Lower Manhattan is much worse than it appears from outside the area.

For more than 10 blocks in every direction from the World Trade Center complex, debris clogs the streets, cars are overturned, and buildings are heavily damaged from the debris that came raining down when the center's towers fell.

A nine-story building, 5 World Trade Center, and the Millennium Hilton hotel were in danger of collapsing, fire officials said.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said two people trapped in the WTC basement made cell phone calls to their relatives to give them their locations, and said others were down there with them.

"We're going to focus our efforts on recovering as many people as we can and on removing debris, which will take at least two or three weeks," said Giuliani at a Wednesday news conference.

Eighteen teams of rescue workers were using listening devices and dogs to locate survivors and bodies, the police commissioner said at a news conference Wednesday.

"The estimates that we're working with are in the thousands," Giuliani said, when asked about the death toll.

Giuliani said the latest confirmed citywide death toll was 82, and 370 police officers and firefighters are missing and feared dead.

New York Fire Chief Pete Ganci, who spent more than 30 years with the New York Fire Department, and First Deputy Commissioner of the Fire Department William Feehan are among those who perished.

The Greater New York Hospital Association -- an organization of some 200 hospitals in the New York metro area -- said emergency rooms treated more than 1,500 people after Tuesday's attack.

Knife-wielding hijackers took over four planes Tuesday, crashing two of them into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center. Another hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon; a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

A total of 266 people aboard those airplanes were killed.

Pentagon officials said they expected the number of fatalities there to be somewhere between 100 and 200.

Washington Hospital Center told the AP it is treating 15 people from the attack. Seven of those are in critical condition. Walter Reed Army Hospital has two patients, according to the AP.

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