NEW YORK, US.- An aging steam pipe containing cancer-causing asbestos exploded beneath Fifth Avenue in Manhattan early Thursday, spewing a geyser of white vapor 10 stories high and forcing an evacuation of 49 buildings, but city officials said there was no major public health threat.
Five people, including three civilians, suffered minor injuries from the 6:40 a.m. blast on 21st Street, and officials warned people who may have gotten material on them to bag their clothes and shower immediately as a precaution.
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On a street near the blast site, firefighters stripped off their heavy outerwear, bagged it and entered a red decontamination tent in their gym shorts and T-shirts to take showers.
“There was asbestos in the steam line casing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said about eight hours after the explosion, but “the air cleared fairly quickly after the incident. ... Thvere is no meaningful presence of asbestos in the air at this point.” Nevertheless, responders continued to wear masks and their vehicles were hosed off.
De Blasio said it could take daysv to check and clean the buildings, which include 28 in a “hot zone” closest to the site where the blast left a crater roughly 20 feet by 15 feet (6 meters by 4.5 meters) in the street. It was not immediately determined what caused the blast in the 20- inch (50-cm) pipe.
The mayor said no work was being done on the pipe at the time. Daniel Lizio-Katzen, 42, was riding his bike home to the West Village when he saw the plume from the high-pressure steam explosion.