Rescuers are urgently searching through the rubble of lower Manhattan in an increasingly gloomy hunt for survivors, a day after the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Major obstacles remain in their way, including the partial collapse today of yet another building at the World Trade Center, Building 5, and the instability of the neighboring structures which remain standing.
Authorities think four additional buildings are in danger of collapsing. This evening, One Liberty Plaza, a 54-story office tower across from the World Trade Center, appeared to be on the verge of falling down. The building has been evacuated.
Late this afternoon, hundreds of rescue workers were evacuated shortly before the remaining seven stories of the South Tower of the World Trade Center crumbled. Workers could be seen sprinting away from the site.
Workers were also highly concerned about the condition of the Millenium Hilton Hotel across the street from the World Trade Center. And an enormous cloud of dust, smoke and debris, visible for miles around, is still spewing from the site, slowing rescue work and presenting a possible health hazard.
These factors, in addition to the sheer difficulty of trying to pry through enormous, crumpled, twisted frames of the buildings, mostly using cranes, is leading to a sense of despair among some rescue workers.
"It's just too tough," said one fireman, sitting on a curb with his head in his hands, crying.
"We still have hope for them, but with the size of that fall and the fire and that smoke, it doesn't look good for them," said another fireman.
On Tuesday morning, both 110-story towers of the World Trade Center collapsed after being hit by airplanes. Early Tuesday evening, Building 7 at the World Trade Center, a 47-story tower on the north side of the complex, also tumbled into itself.
Hospitals on High Alert
All told, about 1,100 people have been sent to local New York hospitals, with additional "walking wounded" sent to New Jersey health-care facilities, officials said.
In addition to the 55 people known to have been killed on the ground in New York, 266 people died on the four airplanes hijacked Tuesday. There are no estimates for how many people are reported missing. About 50,000 people regularly worked at the World Trade Center, and many more visited every day.
Workers are slowly uncovering dead bodies. At least one body was seen being taken by ferry to the temporary morgue established on Liberty Island.
New York City hospitals remained on high alert although officials noted they were seeing far fewer survivors from the collapsed towers than they had hoped or expected.
Trying to Find Loved Ones
As rescue efforts continued today, friends and families began the onerous, increasingly panicked task of trying to locate loved ones and determine their condition.
Virtually every major investment bank and company with offices in lower Manhattan put some kind of plan into action to account for their employees. Many established toll-free numbers for workers to report in to.
Cantor Fitzgerald LP, one of the largest U.S. government bond trading firms, set up a bereavement center at the Pierre Hotel in midtown Manhattan; other companies were planning similar measures to help friends and family members determine the missing from the dead.