So it was a steam pipe that exploded last night near Grand Central, and the fallout from it includes one death (from a heart attack), more than 30 injuries (two critical), and, in the words of the Times, an "unnerved" Manhattan. "There is no reason to believe this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure," said Mayor Bloomberg. This is a surprisingly wan consolation: With infrastructure that allows for the occasional midtown geyser strong enough to rip pavement, flip a truck, and half-swallow a car, who needs terrorists? Witnesses described the epicenter, on 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, as looking strangely primordial, with flames flickering inside the rupture and boiling brown muck bubbling around its edges. There's a YouTube video already, of course, and the inevitable idiotic comments. Bush did it! LOL!
The next scare: asbestos. Because the burst pipe was laid in the twenties, it could be full of the stuff; the last time a similar explosion sent asbestos-laden debris into the air, near Gramercy Park in 1989, Con Edison concealed the fact for days (blogger Dove's Eye View recounts the blast, remembering that "the resulting mess rendered several apartment buildings uninhabitable for months.") Yesterday, Con Ed admitted to the possibility of a contamination right away. People who came in contact with the steam and debris are advised to trash their wardrobes. Which, the photos attest, will mean more than one very nice suit.