Eleven buildings were evacuated after the Flatiron steam pipe explosion, and Con Edison is conducting environmental testing to see if asbestos or other contaminants are present.
Eleven buildings were evacuated after the Flatiron steam pipe explosion, and Con Edison is conducting environmental testing to see if asbestos or other contaminants are present. (Twitter/ConEd)

Updated, 3:15 p.m: There is a “real concern” about asbestos contamination following Thursday morning’s Flatiron steam pipe explosion, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an afternoon press conference.

I'm at 23rd Street and 5th Avenue with an update on this morning's steam pipe explosion. https://t.co/ypJR9de4oZ

— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 19, 2018

No one was seriously injured during and after the steam line ruptured around 6:39 a.m., but officials are “very concerned about the material that was part of the steam line,” de Blasio said as asbestos was found in its casing during post-rupture testing.

The mayor confirmed that the air in the vicinity of the Flatiron steam pipe explosion cleared fairly quickly and is now safe with “no meaningful presence of asbestos.”

 

However, the debris the steam explosion spewed on the streets and building facades remain, and “there is concern if it entered into the buildings and AC units” nearby, the mayor continued. “There will be a thorough assessment to make sure the air is clean and safe.”

To that end, the core area of the Flatiron steam pipe explosion on Fifth Avenue between 19th Street and 22nd Street is currently closed to traffic — and will remain so mostly likely for the next few days, de Blasio said, adding that city health and environmental officials will constantly assess the situation, “which might change the timelines up or down.”

There are 49 buildings overall that need to be inspected following the steam pipe explosion, 28 of which are in the area of “greatest concern,” de Blasio said. “We need to check each before they can go back to normal functioning whether resident or office.”

For those who live or work in the area of the Flatiron steam pipe explosion who have an urgent need to access something in the affected buildings, such as pets or medications, the FDNY will send properly trained and fitted personnel inside, “but people will not be allowed back into their buildings for a few days,” de Blasio said. “We’ll do everything we can to help pope find a place to stay.” 

If you were in the vicinity of the steam pipe explosion, you are urged to bag up your clothing — and shower — and bring those garments to Con Edison, which is set up at 22nd Street and Broadway and will offer compensation, the mayor said. 

While R and W service has resumed at 23rd Street following the Flatiron steam pipe explosion, M23 SBS, M1, M2, M3 and M55 buses are still experiencing detours and changes due to the street closures. 

Original story, 10:13 a.m.: Thursday's Flatiron steam pipe explosion in Manhattan is causing several service changes on MTA subways and buses during the morning rush-hour commute — and the evacuation of 11 buildings in the vicinity, the FDNY said.

The steam pipe explosion occurred near Fifth Avenue and 21st Street around 6:30 a.m., NBC4 reported, and steam shot out from underground for at least two hours afterward. Asphalt pieces and other debris littered nearby streets, sidewalks and cars.

In a tweet, Con Edison said that it is conducting environmental testing “to determine whether asbestos or other contaminants are present, but as a precaution anyone in the vicinity of the rupture who was covered in material is advised to bag their clothing and shower.”

The Flatiron steam pipe explosion comes nearly 11 years to the day a similar explosion occurred near Grand Central Terminal on July 18, 2007, NBC4 reported. During that incident, debris shot 40 stories up and rained mud down onto the streets.

While that was caused by an aged underground pipe failure, the cause of the Flatiron steam pipe explosion is still under investigation.

MTA service changes after Flatiron steam pipe explosion

Due to the Flatiron steam pipe explosion, R and W trains are bypassing the 23rd Street station in both directions, the MTA said. Riders are encouraged to use the 14th Street/Union Square or 28th Street stops as travel alternatives.

South bound M1, M2, M3 AND M55 buses are making stops on Seventh Avenue from 31st Street to 15th Street due. Northbound M1, M2, M3 and M55 buses are delayed as a result of the Flatiron steam pipe explosion.

M23 SBS buses are detoured due to the Flatiron steam explosion. There will be no eastbound or westbound stops on 23rd street between Sixth Avenue and Park Avenue South; riders are encouraged to use the Seventh Avenue or Lexington Avenue bus stops instead, the MTA said. 

For current service updates, visit mta.info.

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