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Search continues for missing woman in Brooklyn blast

Amid calls for stronger safety laws, investigators Sunday continued to search for a missing woman who lived in the three-story Brooklyn building gutted by an apparent natural gas explosion.

The Saturday afternoon blast in Borough Park has one confirmed fatality -- Ligia Puella, 64, who lived on the top floor. At least three other people were injured.

"One person lost their life and another is still missing," Mayor Bill de Blasio told congregants at Saint Rita's Roman Catholic Church in East New York Sunday. "I ask for your solidarity, your love and your prayers for all the families in Borough Park who are in pain today."

The missing woman lived on the second floor of the building at 4206 13th Ave. -- the same floor where officials believe the blast originated. FDNY officials suspect the gas leak occurred after an expensive stove was disconnected so the owner could move it to a new home.

"They are trying to determine if there are any more victims inside," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. "Because of the collapse in the rear part of the building, they have to move extremely slow."

Adams said a "controlled demolition" was underway.

A search of the debris was delayed for safety reasons, according to de Blasio's office. The city's Department of Buildings ordered demolition-related evacuations of surrounding buildings, displacing about 50 people.

The fire department had 11 units and 50 firefighters on the scene in case any new "pockets of fire" emerged, according to the mayor's office. The city fire marshal was expected to investigate the cause of the blast once the stability of the remaining structure was assured.

Adams said he is proposing new safety legislation to address the city's "gas problem" -- citing four recent natural gas explosions, including the 2014 East Harlem blast that killed eight people and an East Village blast in March that killed two.

"We would be irresponsible if we do not pause for a moment, look at each one of those incidents and see if there's a common thread going through each one and ask what can we do legislatively to address this," Adams said. "There's only two steps to dealing with gas. If you smell something, get out and call 911."

Adams said the city has "no clear regulations" for who can hook up or remove gas appliances. His proposed law would require that licenses or certificates be obtained before doing any work involving gas lines.

"I feel bad for the families," said Andrea Sweberg, 40, of Sunset Park, who works across the street. "After the fourth one [gas explosion], it's a warning now. It could happen in my house. It could happen anywhere."

With Alison Fox

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