Published: Sat, July 21, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

NYC prepares sandbags to barricade steam-pipe blast site

NYC prepares sandbags to barricade steam-pipe blast site

The blast occurred about 6:39 Manhattan's Flatiron District, just blocks from the iconic Flatiron Building, according to the New York City Fire Department.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was directing the state's Department of Public Service to conduct a full investigation into the cause of the explosion and determine whether any utility activities contributed to it.

"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.

A utility employee works at the scene of a high pressure steam explosion on Fifth Avenue in NY. Each of them was taken to decontamination centers.

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Test results that showed there was asbestos in the steam line raised concerns about the long-term effect of exposure through debris, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an afternoon news conference.

The eruption, though, near the Fifth Avenue and 21st Street intersection, sent the toxic fibers airborne, which endangered anyone nearby.

If asbestos contamination is confirmed in New York, the entire area around the explosion will need to be decontaminated, and parts of 5th Avenue could be shut down for days, a city official told The New York Times.

"It was stupid", Vreeland said.

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On the subway, R and W trains are bypassing 23rd Street in both directions. Offices in the area were also advising employees to take alternate routes to work.

In 2007, a steam pipe burst in Midtown Manhattan, killing one and leading to millions of dollars in lawsuits, while a 1989 steam pipe explosion killed three people. Dozens of people were injured; some suffered awful burns or had limbs severed.

While this steam pipe explosion didn't cause any major injuries, it's worth noting that two similar explosions in the past weren't almost as harmless.

Con Edison workers were on scene isolating the steam lines. A law firm said that the steam system had "a long documented history" of systemic problems. Several buildings had to be evacuated immediately. Also, parts of lower Fifth Avenue could be closed.

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What led to the steam pipe exploding is still unknown, but officials are now examining the scene and have launched a full investigation. In the city, steam is also used at hospitals to sterilize equipment and at dry cleaners to press clothes.

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