NEW YORK — The last, major steam pipe explosion in Manhattan happened on July 18, 2007 —11 years and one day before the blast Thursday morning that forced hundreds out of their apartments and businesses in the Flatiron District, with concerns about asbestos contamination inside buildings and on clothing.
The 2007 explosion happened at 6 p.m., during rush hour, when commuters started running for their lives, after a huge roar from the underground sent a 40-story funnel into the air, spewing 400-degree steam, on 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, just a block from Grand Central Terminal.
A 51-year-old New Jersey woman who was trying to flee the chaos suffered a heart attack and died.
A young tow truck driver was scalded by the steam on 80 percent of his body, his vehicle stuck in a crater created by the blast. A female passenger in the truck was also seriously injured.
There are more than 105 miles of underground pipes in the New York City steam system, and Con Ed provides 55 percent of that steam to nearly 2,000 residential and commercial buildings.
The company has a promotional video calling steam efficient and environmentally friendly, as well as cheaper than other forms of energy.
There have been more than a dozen steam pipe explosions in the city since 1987.
On August 19, 1989, a Con Ed worker and a bystander were killed in a blast in Gramercy Park.
Mayor Ed Koch was the mayor then and arrived on the scene to check on evacuations, much like Mayor Bill de Blasio did Thursday on 21st Street and Fifth Avenue.
In both cases, the areas were contaminated with asbestos.