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After Fifth Avenue steam explosion, Flatiron returns to normal

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Streets have reopened, but many people are still displaced

Steam Pipe Explosion Sends Plumes Of Smoke Onto Manhattan Street Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Following the steam pipe explosion last Thursday that left a large part of the Flatiron District in chaos, things are slowly returning to normal.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion—the cause of which has yet to be determined—several blocks near the “hot zone” at 21st Street and Fifth Avenue were closed to traffic, pedestrians, and residents and workers in the surrounding buildings. The city’s Office of Emergency Management announced on Sunday night that 18th, 19th, and 22nd streets are now open, and Fifth Avenue is now open to bus traffic. (That said, “buses are bypassing all stops between 18th and 23rd Streets along 5th Avenue,” according to OEM.)

But the area right around the explosion, at 20th and 21st streets, remains closed off; OEM has not yet given a time frame for when those streets might reopen.

OEM, the FDNY, and Con Edison (which controls the city’s steam system) are also working on stemming the threat of asbestos contamination from the explosion. The city confirmed on Friday that the poisonous chemical was present in the steam main, leading to the evacuation of several dozen buildings in the area. As of Sunday night, nine of those buildings have been cleared for entry, according to OEM; more are still in the process of being power-washed and decontaminated.

Though no major injuries were reported as a result of the explosion, many businesses and residents of the area have been affected (NY1 says 400 people were displaced). A reception center at The Clinton School at 10 East 15th Street remains open to help those affected; it’ll also be the site of public briefings on the clean-up efforts, happening tonight at 5:30 p.m.