Hazmat teams scrub sidewalks, hose down Flatiron buildings to wash away asbestos following steam pipe explosion

FLATIRON DISTRICT, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Flatiron District is always congested, but since Thursday's steam pipe explosion, it has become a nightmare.

Cleanup crews decked out in hazmat suits scrubbed sidewalks and hosed down buildings in the hot zone in order to wash away dangerous asbestos that spewed into the air. It is a slow and painstaking process with 49 buildings in the area affected.

Homes, offices and small businesses were evacuated for a third day. The evacuations have had an impact on hundreds of workers and residents.

PHOTOS from the moments after the blast

Officials say the air is safe, but also say if you have to walk through the area - wear a mask. It has gotten a little better since a steam pipe exploded, blanketing the neighborhood with asbestos-laden mud.

Broadway is open to traffic between 23rd Street and Union Square, but it is a chaotic maze of firefighters, ConEd crews, hazmat teams and of course countless tourists, New Yorkers and the cars competing for road.

WATCH raw video from NewsCopter 7 over the scene

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NewsCopter7 was overhead after the steam pipe explosion in Manhattan's Flatiron District.

Crews are still trying to figure out what caused the 86-year-old steam pipe to explode. It could take up to six months to find the answer.

There is also a giant crater at 21st and 5th to worry about. However, residents say each passing day gets a little easier.

Meanwhile, thousands of sand bags are on site to contain the debris.

With rain coming Saturday night, crews are worried it could spread the mess, slowing down their progress.

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