Evacuations after manhole fire causes CO scare

April 7, 2010 3:00:17 AM PDT
An underground explosion shut down a major part of Midtown Manhattan along Broadway on Tuesday. The incident happened at 226 West 52nd Street and Broadway, and quickly grew to a three-alarm fire.

The underground explosion unleashed a torrent of chemicals into the air. Carbon monoxide levels were dangerously high 17 floors up. The levels remained high late into the night.

Flames and smoke spit out from manhole on 52nd Street. The fire followed a thunderous explosion.

"It was actually really scary. I was downstairs in the basement when it first happened, and all the lights went out. It was for a brief second, but it was pretty scary," said Theresa Saks.

The smoke was so thick and the carbon monoxide so dense that four buildings had to be evacuated, including the Novotel Hotel. The August Wilson Theater could not open for Tuesday night's performance of Jersey Boys.

Seven firefighters were injured, but not seriously. No civilians were injured.

The hotel guests were moved to other hotels in Brooklyn.

Con Ed remained on the scene late Tuesday night, hoping to get things back to normal by morning.

No subway disruptions were reported, but there were several street closures. West 52nd Street was closed from 7th to 8th avenues. Broadway was closed from West 51st through West 53rd streets.

Four buildings evacuated due to elevated carbon monoxide readings included:

  • 226 West 52nd Street, a 33-story commercial building with church from floors 1 to 4 and the Novotel Hotel from floor 5 to 33.
  • 228 West 52nd Street, a 5-story multiple dwelling, restaurant on floors 1 and 2 (Gallagher's Steakhouse)
  • 234 West 52nd Street, a 4-story landmarked commercial building
  • 236 West 52nd Street, a 5-story residential building with restaurant on 1st floor