NEW YORK — Searchers found more bones believed to belong to Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack victims Sunday in manholes and utility areas, areas that were apparently overlooked years ago.
Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who is overseeing the recovery effort, also said that search officials had identified 12 additional underground areas that will be examined in coming days.
Utility and city officials have excavated about five underground areas, yielding more than 100 pieces of human remains, since construction workers discovered bones earlier in the week in a manhole excavated as part of work on a transit hub.
The medical examiner’s office said 18 pieces of remains were found Sunday. The bones found thus far range from tiny fragments to recognizable bones from skulls, torsos, feet and hands. Some are as large as whole arm and leg bones.
“They will go through every grain, every piece of material carefully, and sift through it,” Skyler said.
The underground pockets are located along the western edge of the 16-acre lower Manhattan site, underneath a service road built in March of 2002 to free up traffic on a major thruway that had been closed since the Sept. 11 attack.
However, when it was built, some below-ground cavities that had been used for utility and infrastructure purposes were paved over without being searched for remains.
Skyler said the city will focus on finding remains before it reviews how the initial search was handled. He said construction at ground zero did not need to be halted to accommodate the search, but that officials would address the need if it arises.
Some Sept. 11 families, however, called for the rebuilding to stop until the recovery is finished.
“Their actions say remains are not a priority, they’re secondary to the rebuilding,” said Charles Wolf, who lost his wife and has never received any of her identified remains. “This is bringing up all the gnawing, gut-wrenching stuff inside us again.”
The active search for the dead ended at the site in 2002 after a massive cleanup of 1.5 million tons of debris. About 20,000 pieces of human remains were found, but the DNA in thousands of those pieces was too damaged by heat, humidity and time to yield matches in the many tests forensic scientists have tried over the years.
More than 40 percent of the 2,749 Sept. 11 victims in New York have never been identified.
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