Folks were locked out of their apartments yesterday following a midtown water pipe explosion. Those who lived in the area were told that it would be three to five hours before they could know if and when they could go home. The police crews were wearing masks. Restaurants, local businesses and NYPD shared wet towels and masks with the pedestrians who were waiting to go home. There was a great concern that asbestos might have been going into the windows. The microscopic scope of the debris danger was not yet known.
As dusk fell many did not know where to go. Two city buses, a school bus and several cabs were caught in the dilemma and were covered with debris. Dead center of 41 Street and Lexington Avenue was a debris field. There were many evacuations going on in the area. Asbestos testing and the structural integrity of the street and buildings was in need of being evaluated.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioner Cappetta and other professionals spoke at 8:22 PM. At 5:57 PM the mayor reported, the call came in that a 24-inch steam pipe installed in 1924 had broken. Cold water getting into the pipe, they believed, had caused the pipe to explode. During the initial emergency conference yesterday, the mayor waited as fire engine sirens sped past before continuing to speak. The news on ABC Channel 7 reported that there was one confirmed fatality, a cardiac arrest victim at Bellevue Hospital according to the mayor, as a result of this incident in addition to the 12 injuries initially reported.
The mayor continued after several minutes. He repeated that the explosion was reported at 5:57. Water from the rain or the main may have been the cause. http://nyc.gov , TV or radio, Bloomberg stated, would be able to tell folks what to do by this morning, the following day. Bloomberg said to assume there was asbestos until known hopefully at that time, within the next hour. If so he said the steam should have assisted in washing it away. “Err on the side of being cautious” he said. Vanderbilt to Third Avenue was closed.
The subway services were disrupted on the 4, 6 and 7 trains and bus detours occurred all in the surrounding areas. http://mta.info was noted as a place to be checked for further information. The Dept. of Environmental Protection and The Department of Health were also involved. If you were in a closed building in the area yesterday, instructions were to stay, There was to be however, no coming into the area. The mayor said for those who had been touched by debris, to wash their soiled clothing from this alone if it is possibly contaminated. An environmental specialist later gave a different way to handle the clothing.
Air monitoring and sampling was being done before the general public would be allowed back into the area. Yesterday, it was hoped that by 10:00 PM the first samples would have been tested. Another person, Jessica, who was more informed about contamination said to wash yourself with soap and water and to put your soiled clothing into a plastic bag.