Video: Underground Transformer Explodes In Manhattan


transformer-explodes[Video below.] An eight-story building in the Flatiron District of Manhattan sustained serious damage after an underground transformer exploded below the structure this morning. Firefighters and emergency units were on the scene at 19th Street at Sixth Avenue where the explosion occurred. Numerous windows from the top to the bottom of the building were blown out as a result of the blast.

There were no reported injuries and the building was evacuated after the explosion.

Steve Rothman witnessed the blast from about half a block away and told CBS 2 he could feel the heat from the fire on his skin. “It was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen. I did notice the fire trucks gathering on Sixth Avenue many minutes before it happened,” he said. “I turned away for a moment and felt a huge burst of heat, that’s how sudden and hot it was. It looked like the apocalypse for a second, but it subsided very quickly. I think I let out a shriek.”

The resulting fire from the explosion was under control shortly after noon.

Consolidated Edison spokesman Christopher Olert said the transformer was in a vault below the front of the seven-story building. An investigation was under way into the cause.

Carol Paplin, who works for an office furniture dealership on the sixth floor of the building on Sixth Avenue in the Chelsea district, said she detected a sulfur odor as she approached the building at 10:30 a.m., but as she got to the entrance the smell faded and she went inside.

About half an hour later, building workers were told via the public address system that there was a fire on the sidewalk but not to be alarmed.

“Then, as I walked through the office, an orange fireball went up at our window,” Paplin said.

At that moment, another announcement instructed those in the building to evacuate using a back staircase.

“Everyone was calm, although there were many people without their coats and pocketbooks,” said Paplin.

The front door of a Radio Shack store was blown out by the force of the explosion. Other businesses in the building include a Bally’s Total Fitness gym and a Papyrus stationery store. The building also houses the Apex Technical School on the opposite end from where the damage occurred.

The building is part of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, so named for the shops and stores that were along parts of Broadway toward the end of the 19th century. That area was given its designation in 1989.

The structure, known as the Simpson, Crawford and Simpson building, “is an incredibly important building historically and architecturally,” said Elisabeth de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Click below for a video report:

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{WCBS-TV/Noam Newscenter}