Pipe explosion fills Manhattan streets with steam (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Pipe explosion fills Manhattan streets with steam (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Cheryl Sanders
July 21, 2018

As of publication, no major injuries have been reported - which is a miracle!

The fear of asbestos contamination dominated the early cleanup efforts.

The World Health Organization says definitively that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans, and causes cancer in the lungs, larynx, ovaries, as well as many cases of mesothelioma.

Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito said that buildings and sidewalks will need to be meticulously cleaned before tenants can return home or to work. "The big part of this will be the cleanup".

Steam rose near the site of a steam pipe explosion on Fifth Avenue near the Flatiron District
Drew Angerer Getty Images Steam rose near the site of a steam pipe explosion on Fifth Avenue near the Flatiron District

"At 6:39 we had the rupture of a high pressure steam main at 21st and Fifth - that's a 20-inch steam pipe that was installed in New York City in 1932", Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

In 1989, Con Edison crews shattered a pipe with a jackhammer on Gramercy Park South and 20th Street, killing two workers and a resident.

"Right now, we are telling people to shelter in place", said New York Fire Department spokeswoman Clare Bourke. De Blasio said much of the asbestos present in city steam lines has been removed in recent years-but not all, apparently.

So, what happened? Con Edison, which operates the system of steam piping under the streets of Manhattan, will have to figure out what caused the massive explosion. The city uses steam for heating and cooling in many buildings, as well as sterilization in hospitals and clothes pressing in laundromats.

Mined in different white, blue, brown and green shades, asbestos is a naturally-occurring silicate mineral that is composed of long, thin crystals, which can kind of look like a fibrous blanket. When left undisturbed in the underground network, it was no serious threat. WATCH raw video from NewsCopter 7 over the scene The utility has representatives on site to collect contaminated clothing, and a reception center has been set up at the Clinton School at 10 East 15th Street for anyone who has questions or needs an escort to their building.

The decontamination efforts began nearly immediately. Five people, including three civilians, suffered minor injuries from the blast. No one required hospitalization.

Almost 100 firefighters responded to the scene.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the incident Thursday afternoon.

Buildings will be closed during that time.

Nearby streets were closed after the blast, creating a morning rush-hour nightmare.

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