Skip to comments.Manhattan Steam Explosion Leaves 1 Dead, Several Injured
Posted on 07/18/2007 8:33:55 PM PDT by Calpernia
NEW YORK -- An underground steam explosion tore through a Manhattan street near Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, sending edgy residents running for cover amid a plume of steam and flying rubble, and causing brief panic about another terror attack.
The explosion was not terrorism.
"There is no reason to believe whatsoever that this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference at the scene of the blast.
Sixteen people were taken to Bellevue Hospital, including the person who died, said spokesman Stephen Bohlen. He said two seriously injured patients were being treated in the hospital's trauma unit. The remainder suffered minor injuries, he said.
Two people who were seriously injured were being treated at New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center. They were in critical condition, said hospital spokeswoman Emily Berlanstein.
The explosion caused widespread chaos as residents and commuters heard a huge blast -- and feared for the worst. Thousands of commuters evacuated the train terminal after workers yelled for people to get out of the building.
VIDEO: Raw Video of Manhattan Explosion
There were also concerns about what was spewed into the air. Some of the pipes carrying steam through the city are wrapped in asbestos. "The big fear that we have is there may or may not have been asbestos release,'' Bloomberg said, adding that the burst pipe was installed in 1924.
He said he wouldn't know test results until later, but he said if there was a release, it may have washed away with the water that came with the steam.
City officials told residents to stay out of the area, and if anyone was exposed to the falling debris to wash with soap and water and place their clothing in a plastic bag. Area residents should close windows and use air conditioning to recirculate.
"Normal precautions are what you should take. There's no reason to panic,'' Bloomberg said.
More info about asbestos from NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene -- For more information on air quality and health concerns in your neighborhood, call 311.
A titanic geyser of steam and earth erupted from the center of 41st Street at around 6 p.m., then continued to boil from the ground for hours, generating a tremendous roar.
Heiko H. Thieme, an investment banker in midtown, had mud splattered on his face, pants and shoes. He said the explosion was like a volcano.
"Everybody was a bit confused, everybody obviously thought of 9-11.''
When the steam cleared at close to 8 p.m., a crater many feet wide was visible in the street. A red tow truck lay at the bottom of the hole.
Con Edison CEO Kevin Burke told reporters Wednesday night that electric feeder cables have been affected by the steam explosion. "No power outages have been reported," according to Burke. Roughly 15-20 steam customers were affected.
Burke said the site of the explosion had been inspected earlier Wednesday as part of a routine response to heavy rains that flooded parts of the city. Crews searched for steam rising from manhole covers or cracks in the street -- an indiciation that the pipes may be in jeopardy. He said they found nothing at that time. The steam systems are inspected about every six weeks.
Burke said crews were working overnight to repair the damage. The pipe was carrying 150 pounds of pressure and the steam in the pipe was 200 degrees when it exploded.
The scene was reminiscent of a similar blast nearly 20 years ago.
A steam pipe explosion near Gramercy Park in 1989 killed three people spewed loads of asbestos into the air -- a fact that Con Ed later admitted it concealed for days while residents were exposed.
Darryl Green, who works with AT&T, said he could feel the buildings shake Wednesday, so he and his colleagues dashed down 30 flights of stairs. "As we came out onto the street, the whole street was dark with smoke,'' he said.
A small school bus was abandoned just feet from the spot where the jet spewed from the ground.
Debbie Tontodonato, 40, a manager for Clear Channel Outdoor, said she thought the rumble from the explosion was thunder.
"I looked out the window and I saw these huge chunks that I thought were hail,'' she said. "We panicked, I think everyone thought the worst, thank God it wasn't. It was like a cattle drive going down the stairs, with everyone pushing. I almost fell down the stairs.''
Advertising executive Saul Gitlin, 44, and his co-workers watched the explosion from their 23rd-floor window.
"I felt the explosion and my building started to shake,'' Gitlin said. "We saw huge crowds of people running toward the west side,'' he said. "We couldn't see what they were running away from.''
Ernesto Berdejo, who works the cash register at Pax, a restaurant in the area, said he saw people running and crying down the street. He and co-workers stayed in the street for about 20 minutes, then went back into the restaurant.
"We didn't know what happened -- something in the ground, really loud. We thought it was terrorism,'' he said.
Millions of pounds of 400 degree steam are pumped beneath New York City streets every hour, heating and cooling thousands of buildings, including the Empire State Building.
The steam pipes are sometimes prone to rupture, however. The 1989 explosion sent mud and debris several stories into the air.
That explosion was caused by a condition known as "water hammer,'' when water condenses in a closed section of pipe. The sudden mix of hot steam and cool water can cause pressure to skyrocket, bursting the pipe.
Senator Clinton farted.
In the wake of the steam pipe explosion in Manhattan Wednesday, mass transit delays and road closures may affect your Thursday morning commute. Get real-time traffic and transit updates here:
Bump and ping to a complete article and photos.
Air Tests Awaited After Steam Pipe Explodes in NYC
Thursday, July 19, 2007
When the skyscraper-sized geyser of steam and debris cleared, it left a gaping crater, hobbled subways and shattered windows in the heart of midtown Manhattan. And it left a jittery city waiting for the results of air-quality tests and recovering from a reawakened dread of sudden destruction.
Crews worked overnight to assess and repair the damage after a steam pipe exploded Wednesday underneath a street near Grand Central Terminal, sending people running for cover as debris rained down. One woman died, and about 30 other people were injured, at least four seriously, officials said.
Stretches of several major thoroughfares remained closed early Thursday, and city officials said workers would not be allowed into office buildings in a zone that covered several blocks.
Environmental officials were testing for air contamination, fearing that the ruptured pipe may have been wrapped in asbestos, and city engineers warned that up to six feet surrounding the giant hole might be in danger of further collapse. The city told people in nearby buildings to keep windows closed and air conditioners set to recirculate indoor air instead of drawing it from outside, and anyone exposed to the falling debris was instructed to wash carefully and isolate soiled clothing in plastic bags.
For many witnesses, the blast revived the wrenching fear of terrorist attack in a scene eerily reminiscent of Sept. 11, 2001: People frantically rushing away from a Manhattan explosion and encountering chaos, debris and blaring sirens on the street. But officials quickly ruled out terrorism and said the explosion was caused by the ruptured 83-year-old steam pipe.
“We were scared to death. It sounded like a bomb hit or a bomb went off, just like 9/11. People were hysterical, crying, running down the street,” said Karyn Easton, a customer at a salon a few blocks from the site of the blast. “It was really surreal.”
Steam and dirt boiled from the ground for hours, generating a tremendous roar and spraying vapor as high as the top of the nearby Chrysler Building. The 200-degree steam was under 150 pounds of pressure per square inch when it exploded near East 41st Street and Lexington Avenue.
Many people were struck by falling chunks of asphalt or rock that had been blasted out of the ground. Mud covered some bystanders. A woman who was bleeding profusely was being helped by police while a man lay on a stretcher in the street.
When the steam dispersed almost two hours after the explosion, a crater many feet wide was visible in the street. A red truck lay at the bottom of the hole. Two city buses and a small school bus sat abandoned in the middle of Lexington Avenue, covered with grit.
Authorities couldn’t immediately account for how the most seriously wounded victims were hurt. Police said the woman who was killed, identified as Lois Baumerich, 57, of Hawthorne, N.J., died of cardiac arrest.
She and 15 other people were taken to Bellevue Hospital, said hospital spokesman Stephen Bohlen. Two seriously injured patients were being treated in the hospital’s trauma unit. The remainder suffered minor injuries, he said.
Two people were in critical condition at New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Emily Berlanstein.
Among the injured were several firefighters and police Officer Robert Mirfield, who helped evacuate 75 people trapped in a nearby office building by cutting open a gate, authorities said.
The impetus for the rupture remained under investigation. Officials said the pipe, installed in 1924, might have exploded under extreme pressure caused by an infiltration of cold rainwater, or might have been damaged by a water main break.
Con Edison head Kevin Burke said the site of the explosion had been inspected hours before the blast, as part of a routine response to heavy rains that flooded parts of the city. He said crews had found nothing then as they searched for steam rising from manhole covers or cracks in the street — an indication that pipes may be in jeopardy. The steam systems are normally inspected about every six weeks.
The Buildings Department determined late Wednesday that nearby buildings were structurally sound but suffered some water damage and broken windows. Several feet of the street near the 25-foot crater was in danger of collapse, officials said.
Some pipes carrying steam through the city are wrapped in asbestos, and test results from air samples were not yet in early Thursday. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause fatal lung disease, though disease is often linked to prolonged exposure.
“The big fear that we have is there may or may not have been asbestos release,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. But he said that if the chemical had been released, it might have washed away with the water that came with the steam.
Millions of pounds of steam are pumped beneath New York City streets every hour, heating and cooling thousands of buildings, including the Empire State Building.
The steam pipes have proven prone to rupture before. A steam pipe explosion near Gramercy Park in 1989 killed three people and spewed loads of asbestos into the air — a fact that Con Ed later admitted it concealed for days while residents were exposed.
That explosion was caused by a condition known as “water hammer,” in which water condenses in a closed section of pipe. The sudden mix of hot steam and cool water can cause pressure to skyrocket, bursting the pipe.
My husband works with infrastructure stuff all the time and said an explosion like that is not surprising. Pressurized steam like that is inherently dangerous.
I’m surprised that many more people weren’t killed or injured considering the force and temperatures involved.
I’m surprised and thankful more weren’t hurt.
Thanks for the update..........
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