(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

A car whose back window was shattered during the incident was moved to Cooper Square. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

It’s been just over 48 hours since an apparent gas explosion rocked 121 Second Avenue, triggering a blaze that brought down three buildings on the corner of Seventh Street. As you can see above, damaged cars have been removed from the scene and search units are currently attempting to find two men who remain unaccounted for. (Here’s a view of that car from the front.) Read on for all the latest.

Rescue and recovery
Sixty firefighters were still on the scene today, and Con Ed shut off gas to 187 nearby residential customers and 32 commercial customers. [Guardian/AP, Con Ed]

The city has lifted vacate orders for at least five buildings across from the site. “One firefighter at the scene said that fire companies were working in three-hour installments, adding that a K-9 unit had begun an initial search for bodies.” [NY Times]

The DOB has issued full vacate orders on three additional buildings: 1 East 7th, 125 2nd Avenue, and 127 2nd Avenue. The DEP is continuing to monitor for asbestos. Nearly 40 samples have come back negative. [NYC.gov]

Mayor De Blasio visited the firehouse on Great Jones today. [Mayor’s Office/Twitter]

(Photo: Mayor's Office/Twitter)

(Photo: Mayor’s Office/Twitter)

New details about possible cause
“Sources tell NY1 it was discovered last year that someone tampered with the meter in the old system—possibly trying to bypass it to avoid paying for gas.” [NY 1]

“Con Ed found an unauthorized gas pipe [at 121 Second Avenue] in August after getting a report of a gas smell, according to a city official briefed on the information. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.” [Guardian/AP]

“Sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York that in August inspectors found the gas line in the basement rigged with a rubber hose to circumvent the Con Edison gas meter. This could have saved money and perhaps allowed for gas to flow to some apartments that had not yet been cleared for service.” [NBC NY]

The victims
As of this morning, the Red Cross reception center at 331 E. 10th St. had helped 125 people. [CBS Local]

The owner of Sushi Park says three of his employees were injured, one badly, and two remain hospitalized. Moises Ismael Locón Yac, the busboy who is still unaccounted for, was “earnest” and good at his job. The owner of Sam’s Deli laments, “I have no money. Everything is my store.” [NY Times]

Sara Stringfield and Rob Torti, a couple who lost their apartment and thousands of dollars in possessions, avoided disaster when they left their apartment to pick up birthday cupcakes. [Daily Mail]

Among others who lived in the apartments or nearby, one man describes walking by Sushi Park when it blew up: “It really felt like my internal organs were reverberating.” [NBC NY]

Fundraising
Beer hall Zum Schneider sent out this message: “Our dear friend and manager Micha Gerland lost his home and with it everything, at the fire on 2nd Ave on March 26th. We’re trying to assist him to get a new start. You can donate to him and his roommates on this page, or in person at the bar.”

In a fundraising plea, Diane McLean writes: “The building around the corner from my apartment – my home where I’ve lived for 36 years, since I was a graduate student in 1979 – went up in flames. Within hours, the home I always knew, the home where I’ve lived alone with my 3 children – Rose, 8, and twins James and Annabelle, 5 – was gone.” [GoFundMe]

Other GoFundMe campaigns: Spencer Hurst, Dan Kenerson, John Duvnjak, and Chris Brown, Elizabeth Dimond, Justin Lubman and Chris Schaub, Norman, Chelsea, and Micha.

For more, see our list of ways you can help.

Openings and closings
Second Avenue is still closed to pedestrians from East Sixth Street to East Ninth Street.

St. Marks is pretty much back to normal, with most if not all businesses open. Pedestrian but not vehicle traffic is permitted again.

43 businesses have been affected, according to the Small Business Services. [NYC.gov]

Some businesses on the block of the collapse, like Stage Restaurant and Gem Spa, are open. Paul’s Da Burger Joint and San Loco aren’t picking up the phone. A person who picked up the phone at Bar Virage, on the next block, said, “We’re closed till we get cleared by Department of Buildings.”

Hot Kitchen, which posted these photos from the top floor of its building, is offering neighbors free meals throughout the week. A sign on the door reads: “Our hearts go out to all our friends and neighbors who were injured or lost homes due to the fire on March 26. We welcome neighbors of 119-125 Second Ave in for a free week until April 2 of meals.”

On East 7th Street, around the corner from the collapse, Standings, Burp Castle, and Jimmy’s No. 43 remain closed. A little further down the block, Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen, Porsena and McSorley’s are open. Sara Jenkins, owner of Porsena, tweets, “Please come in and share the love.”

Stomp has cancelled performances through Sunday. [Broadway.com]

And more
A photo taken Friday night, showing a gaggle of girls using a selfie stick near the scene, has already inspired this music video:

Alan Sytsma issued a fond farewell (for now) to Pommes Frites. [Grub Street]

In a widely shared personal essay, Sarah Larson, who lives near the scene, shares her love of East 7th Street and observes, “Living in New York intensifies the common life experience of having daily pleasures and terrible accidents coexist in close proximity.” [New Yorker]