Manhattan Steam Pipe Blast Opens Crater in New York City

A Manhattan steam pipe explosion has left a massive crater in the middle of a busy intersection in New York City.

According to NBC New York, the explosion occurred just as the morning rush hour commute got underway at around 6:30 a.m. ET near Fifth Avenue and 21st Street in Manhattan's Flatiron District, sending a plume of smoke billowing into the air and leaving a massive crater behind.

"I ran upstairs and when I got up the stairs and got out the door there was steam everywhere, it looked like an explosion happened ... and an explosion had happened," Patrick Tentes said. "There was a bunch of mud spraying the door, it didn't seem stable, I was scared."

The New York Fire Department responded to the explosion and ordered an evacuation of the immediate area, where debris, chunks of asphalt, and mud covered nearby streets and cars. Several witnesses reported that water had also begun to flood the streets near where the blast left a crater in the intersection, though there were no immediate reports of a water main break.

More than 120 minutes into the emergency response, steam and smoke could still be seen billowing from the opened crater. The changing color of the smoke from white to gray and then to black indicated a possible fire underground.

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Energy company Con Edison urged people in the vicinity of the blast to who had been covered by debris to bag their clothes and shower, stating that it was conducting environmental testing for asbestos and other contaminants. The New York Fire Department began decontaminating first responders a few blocks away from the scene as a result of the threat of asbestos, and people could be seen wearing masks as they walked the streets.

The cause of the blast, which resulted in five minor injuries and has affected subway service and traffic in the area, is currently being investigated, and authorities have reported that Con Edison was not performing work in the area at the time.