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Manhole Fire and Explosion in Manhattan Injures 3

A manhole fire and explosion in Manhattan early on Sunday morning damaged cars and storefronts, caused power failures and injured at least three people, officials said.

The Fire Department responded to a call about smoke coming from several manholes on 56th Street between First and Second Avenues around 4:30 a.m. Firefighters searched the buildings on both sides of the street, John Sarrocco, a deputy assistant chief, said at a news briefing.

Around 7:40 a.m., one of the manholes exploded, causing multiple power failures on the block, as well as rising levels of carbon monoxide gas in several buildings in the area, Chief Sarrocco said.

“We escalated the incident to have a second alarm assignment response, which consists of approximately 200 firefighters,” he said. “Those firefighters had to do extensive searches of buildings on 56th Street between First and Second, check in all the elevators because there’s multiple power outages.”

Several residents who needed electricity for life support systems were evaluated by firefighters, he said.

At least three people were injured, including an emergency medical responder, a Con Edison employee and a firefighter who had difficulty breathing, the chief said. Their conditions were not immediately available.

A spokesman for Con Edison said that the fire damaged cars and storefronts but that it was unclear how many. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

A video of the scene showed a gaping hole and broken chunks of asphalt between two parked cars, both badly damaged. Another video showed smoke billowing out of a manhole with flames lapping the edges.

Manhole fires are not uncommon in New York, particularly as winter weather begins to wane, melting the snow and washing corrosive rock salt underground where water mains, power cables, gas and steam lines, telecom wires and sewers lie.

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