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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Bodies pulled from the debris
Rescuers sift through the debris of the World Trade Center
Thousands are feared dead beneath the rubble
Thousands of body bags have been requested in New York as corpses are pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center's twin towers.

The city had already requested 6,000 bags from federal officials, and the New York Times reports 5,000 more were expected on Thursday.

The risky mission was suspended during the night as another building in the area, One Liberty Plaza, appeared on the brink of collapse, and the last remaining floors of the South Tower caved in, forcing workers into an immediate retreat.

We so far have recovered 82 bodies. We have rescued five people

Rudolph Giuliani, New York Mayor
Just five people have been pulled alive from the debris left behind from the unprecedented attacks at the city's financial heart, and 82 bodies have so far been recovered.

The operation, using cranes and heavy machinery, has been slow and painstaking.

Rescuers fear more haste could dislodge wreckage and harm any survivors, although they harbour little hope now of finding many more alive.

But in Washington, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said estimates that as many as 800 people had died in a section of Pentagon which was also struck by a hijacked jet, could be wrong.

"From everything that we currently know, the estimate that has been widely reported is considerably high," he told a news conference. "I hope and pray that it is."

Emergency workers have already started bringing bodies out from the Pentagon wreckage, but thousands of tons of blackened rubble lie in the way of the mission.

"It's just going to take some time," said Mr Rumsfeld.

Searching for friends

Four hijacked planes crashed on Tuesday with a total of 266 people on board, all of whom are assumed dead.

Two of the jets crashed into the 110-storey towers of the World Trade Center, once among the world's tallest buildings, just as workers were starting their day.

Many people were evacuated safely but in less than two hours, explosions and fires fed by fuel from the two aircraft caused both towers to collapse completely.

The explosions caused the twin towers to collapse
"The best estimate we can make, relying on the Port Authority and just about everybody else that has experience with this, is there will be a few thousand in each building," said New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Eighteen rescue teams are operating in the city, with support staff and vehicles brought in from other US states.

The emergency teams digging through the debris are also searching for their colleagues, workers crushed by the collapsing building as they were trying to rescue people just after the jets struck.

Mr Giuliani said 259 uniformed officers, including police and fire-fighters, remained unaccounted for.

Of the five pulled from the debris, three are police officers.

One had guided workers to him using his mobile phone, but the case is proving an exception.

"I lost count of all the dead people I saw," New York fire-fighter Rudy Weindler told the Associated Press news agency. "It is absolutely worse than you could imagine."

Empty beds

Over 1,000 people were treated at local hospitals in Manhattan and about 2,000 walking wounded were ferried across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

Death toll
All 266 on board the four planes are feared dead
Between 100 and 800 may have died at the Pentagon. No survivors yet found
82 people are known to have died so far in the WTC. A few thousand were estimated to be inside the buildings when the first plane crashed
At least 259 uniformed service members are missing in the WTC, feared dead
But hospital representatives said they had hoped to see more survivors brought in for care.

"I think so many people are dead. It's a bad sign that there are no mass casualties," said Dr James Dillard at St Vincent's Hospital in lower Manhattan.

In Washington, at least 90 people had been taken to hospital, with a minimum of ten in a critical condition, the AP news agency reported.

The BBC's Jane Standley
"The city's pain is easy to see"
See also:

13 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush sees Pentagon devastation
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