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Crews Finish Search, Demolition At Site Of Apartment Complex Fire

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) -- Crews finished demolishing the fire-charred ruins of an apartment building on Cedar Avenue near downtown Minneapolis Friday afternoon, just hours after pulling a second body from the structure.

Crews began tearing apart the building at 514 Cedar Avenue South on Thursday and discovered the body of one person who didn't make it out. The building went up in flames early New Year's Day after a reported explosion.

On Friday morning, the Minneapolis Fire Department confirmed that a second body had been discovered in the remains of the building. At around 2 p.m., the building had been completely demolished, according to fire officials.

The victim found Friday was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office, which will work to find out the victim's identity.

The body found Thursday was identified as 57-year-old Ahmed Farah Ali. The exact cause and manner of are death is still under investigation.

"Fire officials now believe everyone who was in the building has been accounted for," the fire department said in a statement Friday.

Fire Chief John Fruetel said Thursday that investigators are focusing on a gas explosion as a possible cause due to the nature of the debris field and because some witnesses spoke of an odor. However, he added the exact cause may never be determined.

Becca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, said there were no natural gas leaks in the system and that the utility received no reports of a suspicious odor before the blast.

Greg Boosalis, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Minneapolis, said the investigation is continuing, but at this juncture there is no evidence of terrorist activity. Boosalis said the FBI has been assisting Minneapolis officials in a "support role."

The apartment building is adjacent to a mosque, which sustained heavy water and smoke damage. Abdisalam Adam, board chair of Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, said other locations have offered to host the mosque's regular classes until the building can be repaired.

The nearby Brian Coyle Community Center hosted afternoon prayers and will continue to do so as long as needed, said the center's director, Amano Dube. Dube estimated about 80 people attended.

Before the bodies were recovered, several local Somalis spoke of the heartache of not knowing whether their loved ones made it out of the building alive.

Katra Ali Hethar, of Waite Park in central Minnesota, said she is married to Ali, the man whose body was taken from the building Thursday. In an interview before learning of his death, she said her husband moved to Minneapolis in hopes of finding work. Hethar said through an interpreter that she and her husband had no children together, but he had four children with other women.

Ali's ex-wife, Hawo Daqare, said Ali was a good father, "very helpful," and likes children. She said he came to the United States in 1980. A distant relative of Ali's, Mohamed Abdi, said Ali was a businessman who once owned a grocery store in New York.

Abdirizak Bihi, a community member, said many people knew Ali.

"Everybody knew him and had interactions with him," Bihi said. "He was a very outgoing person in the community. (His death) really will be a shock."


WCCO-TV caught up with some of the victims who had to jump to safety.

Abdi Kobe and Hersi Hassan lived on the building's second floor and were forced to jump to safety after the explosion. Both men now have broken limbs, but they feel they are lucky to be alive.

Kobe said that after the explosion, his room was almost dark, only lit by fire. He was able to grab his coat and pants, but then he realized his way down the stairs was blocked by fire.

When he looked out the window, Kobe said he saw a policeman, who told him he had to jump out. Kobe broke both his legs and injured his back in the fall. An officer helped him inside Palmer's Bar.

"He take my hand and I walk slowly, because I was feeling very, very bad pain in my leg," he said.

When Hassan jumped, the impact also broke his leg and he got frostbite from lying on the ground.

The Minneapolis Red Cross is now taking donations to help those affected by the fire. 

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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