100 Firefighters Will Be Treated In Asbestos Decontamination Units After Steam Pipe Explodes In New York City

Vandana Rambaran | Political Reporter

About 100 New York City firefighters will be treated at asbestos decontamination units after responding to a steam pipe that exploded in the street of the Flatiron district of Manhattan on Thursday morning.

The 20-inch pipe, which was built in 1932, ruptured around 6:40 a.m. between 21st and 22nd street on Fifth Avenue, causing thick steam to billow in the air around the city as well as mud and other debris, and city officials cautioned that the pipe may have been contaminated with asbestos, according to The New York Times.

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Although only five people were treated for minor injuries from an incident that forced 28 buildings in the area to be evacuated, Con Edison urged anyone who was covered in debris “to bag their clothing and shower,” it said in a statement Thursday. (RELATED: The Mayor Of New York City Doesn’t Know How Many Undocumented Children Are Being Sent There)

“We are operating with an abundance of caution, of course,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro told The New York Times on Thursday. “There is a problem with exposure, but how dangerous, the health department will have to evaluate that.”

Samples of debris were sent to labs to confirm the presence of asbestos, Nigro said. If asbestos is detected, city workers would have to undertake a mass decontamination effort to clean exteriors of buildings and the four block radius that was affected by the explosion, a task that could take several days and would require parts of Fifth Avenue to be shut down, according to The New York Times.

The blast also created a large crater on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, along with a smaller hole on Fifth and 20th Street, according to The Wall Street Journal. City officials anticipate it could take weeks to fix.

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