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Pieces Of Chinese History Salvaged Following Massive Chinatown Fire, Though Asbestos Halts Work

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Displaced non-profits serving the Chinatown community are settling into new locations after fire destroyed their building.

Earlier on Wednesday, crews went inside for the first time to see if anything could be salvaged, reports CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

At 70 Mulberry Street, good news emerged from the ashes and water-logged building as special teams walked out with box after box containing irreplaceable artifacts from the Museum of Chinese in America.

"We opened a lot of the boxes and they're in great shape," said President MOCA Nancy Yao Maasbach. "I'm flabbergasted and ecstatic for that."

Only a fraction of the museum's archives could be retrieved on Wednesday. Those that were wet were sent to Pennsylvania to be freeze-dried to stop further deterioration.

The others were brought to the museum's location on Centre Street where the restoration process will begin.

"We have instruments, a flute that was packaged nicely still wrapped, and many, many documents," said Yao Maasbach.

Last Thursday's fire ravaged the building that's home to organizations providing key cultural and social services to the Chinatown community.

The city has found temporary locations for the programs, including the senior center that's now sharing space with Project Open Door and able to serve more than double the number of people - up to 700 a day.

"Every morning, they are out here with fliers and their cell phone to make sure if there is any senior that we serve who is unfortunately not heard about the fire that they're passing out information to let them know they can go to Open Door," said Wayne Ho, president of the Chinese- American Planning Council.

Back on Mulberry Street, the city has vowed to rebuild, but engineers are still trying to determine if the building has to be demolished.

"The recovery and rebuild period is really the tricky part, so it's just the beginning," said Yao Maasbach.

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