Skip to main content /US /US

Exploding manholes in New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A series of underground explosions Wednesday morning in Midtown Manhattan blew manhole covers into the air, shut down rush-hour traffic and halted transit lines.

Overloaded power lines caused the manhole covers to pop, according to Con Edison. No serious injuries were reported, emergency officials said.

Five manhole covers blew off, apparently in three explosions, shutting down traffic from 32nd to 36th streets and between Seventh and Madison avenues, police Lt. Daniel Offman said.

The 34th Street subway station on Sixth Avenue was shut down temporarily, forcing nine subway lines and one train line -- the PATH train between the city and New Jersey -- to bypass it. The station reopened at about 10:35 a.m. EDT.

Three of the manhole covers blew about 50 feet into the air, police and witnesses said.

"There was a very loud explosion. Everyone started running up Sixth Avenue," said Nancy Lauten, a telephone operator. "There was lots of black smoke."

Jittery commuters were pushed from the scene by police; a few were weeping. Traffic was backed up at least 10 blocks north and south.

One man was injured when he hit his head while fleeing an explosion, and a police officer suffered ringing in his ears, police Detective Walter Burns said.

The explosions were caused when an overloaded feeder cable sent too much power to electrical lines, Con Edison worker Sal Jererma said. The overload heated the power lines, melting insulation and generating a gas that exploded under pressure, Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said.

There was never any interruption in Con Edison service, Olert added.

More power has been running through the lines since the September 11 attack destroyed electrical infrastructure farther south downtown, Jererma said. "We have a lot of power here since downtown," he said.

The first explosion occurred about 7:43 a.m. EDT near the Empire State Building at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. Subsequent explosions occurred within a two-block range west and north of that area, the last occurring about 9 a.m., officials said.

Fifty firefighters from 10 units joined police and electrical workers at the scene, officials said.




Back to the top