Steam-Pipe Explosion Shakes Manhattan

Associated Press
Thursday, July 19, 2007

NEW YORK, July 18 -- An underground steam pipe exploded through a Manhattan street near Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, causing a brief panic about a possible terrorist attack.

Hundreds of people ran for cover amid a towering geyser of steam and flying rubble, and one person died, apparently of a heart attack.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the explosion was not the result of terrorism. "There is no reason to believe whatsoever that this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure," he said of the 24-inch steam pipe, which was installed in 1924.

About 30 people were injured, at least four seriously. Authorities could not immediately account for how the most seriously wounded victims were injured.

The explosion caused widespread chaos as residents and commuters heard a huge blast -- and feared for the worst. Thousands of commuters evacuated the train station.

A huge geyser of steam and mud shot from the center of the blast, generating a tremendous roar. The initial burst of steam rose higher than the nearby 77-story Chrysler Building, one of Manhattan's tallest buildings. The air near the site was filled with debris.

The Buildings Department determined late Wednesday that nearby buildings were structurally sound but suffered some water damage and broken windows. Several feet of street near the 25-foot crater was in danger of collapse.

There were also concerns about what was spewed into the air. Some of the city's steam pipes are wrapped in asbestos.

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