A thunderous bang from the manhole explosion rocked New York’s Times Square on Sunday, 10 April 2022. Several videos have been making rounds on social media broadcasting the scenes of panic. According to reports, 3 manholes caught fire leading to a massive blast. There are no reports of injury, death, or property damage. However, some parts of Times Square will be closed off to the public until further notice.
Manhole Explosion Causes Panic
Videos showed frightened tourists rushing in panic after reportedly hearing a loud blast. The cause of the explosion was not clear at that moment. The New York City Fire Department also did not reveal the cause. One New York resident told the media that the blast was so intense that it shook her whole apartment. Some reports said that the manhole explosion elevated carbon monoxide levels in an office building. Firefighters said that they mitigated the cellar and sub-cellar of that building and evacuated people in the area.
What is the Cause?
Consolidated Edison Inc., the largest energy provider in the city, told the media about the cause of this manhole explosion. It said that a failure in the power cable caused fire and blast inside the manhole. When firefighters went to put out the fire in that maintenance hole, dark clouds of smoke came out from 2 others.
The company again confirmed that the reason was cable failure. It further said that the incident did not cause power outages for customers.
Routine for the Big Apple
Manhole explosion incidents used to happen almost every day in the US. According to reports, these events often occurred in New York more than anywhere else. Edison reported more than 3,300 incidents in 2014, out of which 32 were explosions that caused severe injuries and property damages. A video went viral in 2015 showing a utility hole cover exploding in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. It shot 15 feet up in the sky and shattered nearby glass.
Online stats indicate that utility hole incidents usually skyrocket in the winter months. From 2009 to 2019, the US firefighters responded to 3 maintenance holes on average per day during January and February. There is a mixture of reasons behind this issue. First is the ageing electrical infrastructure on which Edison spends heavily annually. Second is the rainwater and melted snow, along with corrosive salt, spread on the streets to reduce ice. In summers, the extra load is mainly due to the air-conditioning. However, Edison workers have complained about the poor assortment of cables and wires underground that can easily get damaged. In 2001, an employee named Mark Williams left Edison saying that “the utility forced 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag”.