NEW YORK-A subterranean steam pipe explosion on Thursday in NY created an urban geyser that snarled traffic during the city's morning rush hour, but caused no injuries, authorities said.
New York City's fifth avenue was rocked by a huge explosion at 6:40 am this morning, as a burst steam pope shot debris 200 feet up into the air, terrifying city residents.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging the Department of Public Service to "conduct a full investigation into the cause of this explosion and determine whether any utility activities contributed to it", according to the Los Angeles Times.
A steam pipe installed in 1932 exploded Thursday morning hurling chunks of asphalt and sending a geyser of billowing white steam several stories high.
It happened just before 7 a.m. on Fifth Avenue near 21st Street.
The explosion left a crater in the middle of the busy intersection of Fifth Avenue and 21st Street during the morning commute and prompted police to close off streets in the neighborhood.
"We are very concerned about the material that was part of the steam line", New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Almost 50 buildings - including some with apartments - have been evacuated, and no one will be allowed to re-enter until they're deemed safe, he said. While tests showed the air in the area had cleared and is safe, health officials remain concerned about debris containing asbestos. That process, known as abatement, would require tearing up miles of streets while avoiding gas and water mains, electrical, internet and phone cables and New York's underground transportation grid.
Thursday's blast dispersed asbestos into the air and led to the temporary evacuation of 49 buildings. "The steam was shooting up into the air about 70 feet".
"Everyone - including the police and firefighters who were standing by - started moving back", he said.
Five people, including three civilians, suffered minor injuries from the blast on 21st Street in Manhattan.
The steam was still billowing about 10 stories high two hours later.
On the subway, R and W trains are bypassing 23rd Street in both directions.
"Like so much of our infrastructure in NY, the steam infrastructure is getting older and needs to be upgraded", said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of New York's Center for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan policy organization.