Timeline uncertain for residents after steam pipe explosion

Five hundred people remain out of their homes and businesses after a steam pipe explosion spewed asbestos-laden vapor into the air in Manhattan's Flatiron District. A steam pipe exploded beneath Fifth Avenue in Manhattan early Thursday, sending chunks of asphalt flying, a geyser of billowing white steam stories into the air and forcing pedestrians to take cover.

There have been no fatalities of injuries reported so far, but the NY authorities have evacuated the people from the nearby buildings as a precaution.

This explosion has some eerie timing, as the blast happened nearly 11 years to the day of a similar steam pipe explosion near Grand Central.

As reported by the Fire Department of NY (FDNY), exploded one (or more, just until set) underground pipes of steam heating.

The incident occurred at around 6:40 AM on the on Fifth Avenue between 22nd and 21st streets, the CBS reports. The explosions sent massive plumes of scalding steam up towards the morning sky.

"I was riding my Citi Bike to work and just as I was crossing Fifth Avenue around 25th Street, I looked down Fifth Avenue and saw smoke coming", Jerry Bonura, who works at a consulting firm, told the New York Daily News.

Authorities say no one was seriously injured in the blast and the air quality is safe.

The asbestos discovery raised concerns that the substance, which had encased the 86-year-old ruptured pipe, may have spread to the street, buildings and ventilation systems, all of which would need to be decontaminated, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Many MTA express buses that travel to Manhattan from Staten Island are being detoured around the site of a steam explosion in the Flatiron District of Manhattan for the Friday morning commute.

People in the vicinity of the explosion who may have been covered in the steam are advised to bag and wash their clothing. Dozens of people were injured; some suffered awful burns or had limbs severed.

A total of 49 buildings were evacuated, displacing almost 500 people.

"Everyone - including the police and firefighters who were standing by - started moving back", he said.

Con Edison workers were on scene isolating the steam lines.

Multiples streets were closed in the area including a stretch of Fifth Avenue.

The explosion affected subway service for a few hours as trains bypassed the 23rd Street Station.

  • Rogelio Becker