Explosion, steam eruption near Grand Central Terminal in New York City

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rising steam from the explosion
Image: Arvind Grover.

A pipe has burst in New York City, the largest city in the United States, causing a generator to explode. The explosion occurred in Midtown Manhattan near Grand Central Terminal (GCT) and the Chrysler Building, and approximately at the intersection of 41st Street and Lexington Avenue. Nearby buildings have been evacuated, and a large area has been blocked off. There are reports of a very large crater at the scene.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has officially ruled out terrorism. Grand Central Station was quickly evacuated soon after the incident. Subway lines 4, 5 and 6 have no service in both directions between the 125th Street Station and the Bowling Green Station. 42nd Street Shuttle service has been shut completely.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) received a call at 5:56 p.m. EDT (UTC-4) reporting an explosion. More than 170 firefighters were dispatched to the scene. Witnesses reported that buildings in the nearby area shook. This was a five-alarm response.

At least 20 people have been reported injured, and one woman, Lois Baumerich, died from a heart attack. Two people are currently in critical condition.

There are potentially harmful materials at the scene of the explosion and HAZMAT crews are on the scene to clean up debris. There are reports that pipes were wrapped in asbestos, but the air is being tested, and results should be available late Wednesday night.

ConEdison Workers are on the scene as well, and it appears that they are working nearby.

Emergency workers are reporting that the situation is not under control. They are still unable to confirm why the pipe exploded due to the inaccessible nature of the scene at the source of the explosion. The pressure of steam has subsided and the air appears to have cleared, revealing the crater. Disruption of electricity in the surrounding area is minimal.

GCT is reported to be reopened at this time. An area was cordoned off and people trapped in the vicinity due to fears of asbestos pollution resulting from the explosion.

According to a press conference with the mayor, the pipe involved was built in 1924, and a likely cause of the eruption and explosion was cold water leaking into the pipe, possibly from rain or from a water pipe. A tow truck had fallen into the crater left by the explosion, and the explosion also shattered glass on nearby buildings.

Sources

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