Screengrab from a video which shows people running after manhole explosion
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A suspected manhole explosion triggered mass panic in New York’s Times Square on Sunday evening, with videos from the scene showing alarmed tourists scrambling to flee.
The New York Fire Department said there were at least three manhole fires in the area when the explosion took place shortly before 7pm (local time) between 7th and 8th avenues – a popular spot among tourists. The area was later cordoned off by the police.
Videos shared on social media show alarmed tourists running away from the site of what one described as a “huge explosion”.
Elevated carbon monoxide levels were found at an 18-story office building, police said.
“There’s just a huge explosion,” witness Brad Ball told Fox News. “It didn’t sound extraordinarily close, but definitely was an explosion.”
“This isn’t my normal tweet but tonight I was 10-foot away from an explosion in Times Square, I took this video a few seconds after. I believe it was a fire under-ground that blew up. It’s a miracle no one was hurt,” wrote chef Gary Maclean on Twitter.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, the authorities added.
Energy company Con Edison said the blast took place due to cable failure.
“One manhole exploded in the Times Square area this evening due to cable failure, and a second manhole was smoking. At this time, there have been no customer outages, and no reports of injuries or property damage. Our crews remain on location,” the company said in a statement, according to ABC7.
Manhole fires have more than doubled in New York City from 2020 to 2021, the Mayor’s Management Report highlighted. The report, released last year by the office of Bill de Blasio, stated that the rise in “non-structural fires is attributed to a rise in manhole fires which more than doubled” to 6,104 in 2021.