MANHATTAN — Anyone who was near the site of a steam pipe explosion that blew out a large hole in the street and covered blocks beneath a layer of soot have been told by Con Edison to immediately shower and bag their clothing in case of possible asbestos contamination.
The steam pipe burst around 6:40 a.m. along Fifth Avenue between West 21st and West 22nd streets.
Steam continued to billow from a large hole in the ground nearly two hours later. Streets in the area have been closed. Subways and buses have been detoured or are bypassing the area entirely.
Those who were near the explosion or live nearby are advised to shower and bag their clothing in case of possible asbestos contamination from the clouds that billowed from the site after the blast, according to Con Edison, which said this is a precautionary measure.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, cautioned the public to avoid the area of the blast.
"Don’t allow yourself to be exposed to high concentrations of dust irritants and possible toxins," he said. "If you’re near, breathe through a handkerchief or cloth and monitor your breathing.”
He also advised anyone who was near the explosion site to monitor whether they develop coughing or shortness of breath.
Over the next few days, those individuals may experience irritation and coughing, according to Hirsch, whose main concern aside from possible asbestos is dirt and particulate matter in the air.
The pipe that burst feeds several others in the area, and may impact hot water and air conditioners, Con Ed warned. Water mains in the area are being turned off.
The blast sent soot shooting down the block.
A black, mud-like substance has completely covered the roadway and several vehicles parked in the area. Firefighters could be seen wiping the film off vehicles' windows, apparently in an effort to make sure no one was inside.
So far, there have been no reports of injuries, which New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called "a miracle."