The 20-inch pipe which was installed in 1932 burst around 6:40 a.m., according to the New York Fire Department. It produced a geyser and debris that the authorities said were probably contaminated with asbestos. About 100 firefighters who raced to the scene will be decontaminated. Asbestosis is a long-term lung disease caused by extended periods of asbestos exposure. The area was shut down after the explosion . People from 28 buildings near the area of 21st Street and Fifth Avenue were evacuated.
Five people were hit with debris and suffered “very minor injuries” that didn’t require hospital treatment. Authorities were on the scene. The explosion also “caused the disruption of a gas line, a water main and some electrical power.” The blast affected subway service in the area. “The situation is under control, the evacuations happened. There are some environmental concerns being looked at. But in terms of immediate impact, no serious injuries, thank God,” Mayor Bill de Blasio declared. De Blasio said each one of those 28 buildings must be thoroughly assessed for the potential presence of asbestos, and residents won’t be allowed to return to their homes with the exception of emergency needs until those assessments have been completed. The cause of the blast is under investigation.