Rush-hour steam-pipe explosion rattles Manhattan

An 83-year-old underground steam pipe exploded near New York City’s Grand Central Terminal during rush hour yesterday, causing one death, more than 40 injuries, and a lot of rattled nerves. After the initial explosion — a plume as high as the Chrysler Building that onlookers compared to a volcano, the Yellowstone geyser, and the World Trade Center attack — fears arose about possible asbestos contamination. Crews from local utility Con Edison and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection spent the night testing air and debris samples for traces of the carcinogen, which was often used in construction before the risks were fully known. While they found no asbestos in the air, they did find it in muddy debris at the site, and advised those who had been in the area to shower and to bag their clothes for cleaning or disposal. An official also warned area residents to put air conditioners on recirculate to avoid the chance of drawing asbestos into their homes. Man, that city cannot get a break.