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Anorak | Con Ed New York: The Blackout, The Volcano, The Hole

Con Ed New York: The Blackout, The Volcano, The Hole

by | 19th, July 2007

arttransformerwabc.jpgIT’S easy to dismiss New Yorkers’ panic during fires, explosions and blackouts as paranoia.

But when your city is the engine house of the world’s most hated democracy, and when terrorists have flown planes into your skyscrapers, you’ve got every right to be afraid when there’s a massive explosion and people start fleeing for their lives, as Anorak reported yesterday.

The steam pipe blast near Grand Central Terminal at the height of rush hour was the perfect phantom terror scare, striking at the heart of Manhattan during a peak commuter time.

The blast, which was followed by a scalding jet of 200-degree steam, was enough to give one woman a fatal heart attack and seriously injure 30 others, including a man whose tow truck was thrown into the 15-by-25 ft crater.

This morning’s newspapers are full of stories of brave rescuers, fears of asbestos poisoning and echoes of 9/11.

But the story they don’t tell is the way the rest of the city carried on as normal, largely because no one had any idea what was going on.

As it happens, this correspondent was sitting a few blocks away in the New York Public Library when the “Midtown Volcano” erupted on East 41st Street between Lexington and Third Avenue just before 6 pm yesterday.

New York had been hit by a number of thunderstorms and heavy showers that morning so no one took the loud bang to be anything other than thunder, despite the clear blue sky outside.

When I left the library shortly after 7pm and headed down 42nd Street towards Bryant Park there was no sign of the gridlock or of the panicked, mud-spattered people who grace the morning’s papers.

The only indication that something was wrong was the announcement on the subway that the 4,5, and 6 trains were not running. Otherwise everything was normal.

Another curious factor surrounding this explosion is the apparent lack of concern about Con Edison, the utility company that is charged with maintaining the pipes that exploded yesterday.

In recent years the company has presided over a blackout in Queens, and a number of incidents in which dogs, and in one case a dog owner, have been electrocuted after walking over electrified stretches of pavement. A couple of months ago a woman fell 12ft through one of Con Ed’s pavement gratings and almost electrocuted herself on an electrical transformer.

If Con Ed was powering London, the company would already be under attack from politicians of all sides. But there’s been barely a murmur in New York about how a company with such a huge responsibility can make so many monumental cock-ups time and again.



Posted: 19th, July 2007 | In: Reviews Comments (6) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink