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Asbestos found in debris of Manhattan steam pipe blast
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08:40, July 20, 2007

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Asbestos was found in the debris that was spewed forth in a thunderous steam pipe explosion that jolted midtown Manhattan Wednesday, while no asbestos was found in the air, the NYC Office of Emergency Management said Thursday.

The agency said in a statement said tests were continuing and people who may have come into contact with the steam or debris should take a shower and place their clothes in plastic bags for cleaning or disposal.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen. But asbestos-related diseases are generally linked to longterm exposure in industrial settings.

The 200-degree steam was under 150 pounds of pressure per square inch when it exploded near East 41st Street and Lexington Avenue.

A woman with heart disease died and more than 40 others were injured, including two seriously.

Con Edison, which maintains the steam pipes beneath the city's streets, checked the pipe Thursday morning.

Kevin Burke, chairman of Con Edison, said a heavy rain can cause a "vapor condition" if rainwater seeps onto a steam pipe, causing the steam to condense.

The powerful blast left a huge crater on the ground. The streets around the area of the explosion near Grand Central Terminal remained closed Thursday morning and city officials created a "frozen area" where people can not enter because of cleanup and environmental tests.

Subways were running normally again on Thursday afternoon. The trains had been bypassing 42nd Street, but now they are stopping there.

Despite initial fears, mayor Michael Bloomberg told a press conference Wednesday evening that the blast was not terrorism-related.

New York City has a complex network of steam pipes underground. In August, 1989, three people died in a steam pipe explosion in lower Manhattan.

Source: Xinhua

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