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Second body found at site of Minneapolis apartment blast

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Fire crews on Friday recovered a second body in the debris of a Minneapolis apartment building destroyed by an explosion on New Year's Day that also left at least 14 people injured, the fire department said.

Investigators have been looking into a gas leak as a possible cause for the early morning blast and fire that destroyed the three-story building with a ground-floor grocery store and 10 apartments in a community of mainly Somali immigrants.

Family members and fire officials had said two people were unaccounted for after the Wednesday fire. Another body was found Thursday afternoon when crews began the slow process of removing debris from the damaged structure.

Demolition of the building was completed on Friday afternoon and fire officials now believe that everyone who was in the building has been accounted for, the department said in a statement.

Witnesses told investigators they detected an odor like gas before the blast, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told a news conference on Thursday. The cause remains undetermined.

A CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman has said no gas odors or leaks were detected on CenterPoint's area distribution system, which is fairly new.

The roof and upper floors of the 1886 building collapsed, leaving unstable ice-caked exterior walls and rubble.

Fourteen people were taken to hospitals after the fire. On Friday, three were reported in critical condition and one in fair condition. The rest were in satisfactory condition or had been released from the hospital, medical authorities said.

(Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Gunna Dickson)