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Investigators sift through debris of East Village explosion looking for 2 men unaccounted for

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EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) -- As huge cranes removed massive amounts of debris from three destroyed East Village buildings, firefighters doused hotspots that continued to flare up.

At least two men remain unaccounted for since the devastating gas explosion and fire on 2nd Avenue near 7th Street Thursday afternoon.  Although a search through the rubble is still being called a rescue operation, cadaver dogs, trained to detect human remains, have been brought in.

The brother of one of the missing men burst into tears Saturday afternoon while at the explosion scene.

"I cried.  The devastation is so big," said Elena Gregory, who lives across the street from the destruction.

Dozens of firefighters, Con Edison inspectors and building inspectors were on scene Saturday on 2nd Avenue near 7th Street, along with dozens of NYPD officers. The probe into what caused Thursday's gas explosion is now part of a criminal investigation. Officials suspect a pipe may have been rigged to tap gas and bypass a meter.

"This is beyond the pale, what people do for money," said Gregory. I'm very upset about the whole thing. Fifty people could have been killed."

"It's a sad feeling in the air," Dean Dempsey, who lives a few blocks from the scene of the explosion told PIX11. That sadness along with a suspicion and a lingering smell of smoke in the air.

"To see it go down like this is tragic," said NYU student David Filstein.