MIDTOWN EAST, Manhattan (WABC) — Initial testing of the steam pipe leak in Midtown East did not show elevated levels of asbestos, but New Yorkers in the area are being urged to remain indoors.

Steam was shooting out of the intersection of Second Avenue and East 52nd Street, prompting worries that the broken pipe might contain asbestos. An official with Con Edison says the leak started around 2 a.m. and progressively worsened before the leak was capped and the main was turned off around 6:45 a.m.

“Initially we had a call in regards to a vapor condition,” said Con Edison Vice President of Steam Operations Hugh Grant. “As we responded and were on site, that condition worsened and ended up with the release of steam. It’s not a rupture, its a release of steam on one of the auxiliary pipes on the steam system.”

Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon spoke to a man and his son who noticed an unusual amount of steam coming from the ground Tuesday night.

The man grew up in the area and was back visiting for the holidays, so he knew what a normal amount looks like. He said this was not. It was thick white clouds that you might see when it’s extremely cold out. He thought it was odd so he took pictures.

“We went back inside. We kept talking about it. And then early this morning you could hear something was going on. And then when we went on to the terrace, we saw that hazmat suits and dust everywhere,” Jerry Ferris said.

“I heard a loud bang. I was like, ‘what is that?’ I looked around in my bed. I was like, ‘all right, I’m safe.’ And I went back to sleep. When I woke up, there were hazmat guys everywhere. There were people testing,” Asher Ferris said.

Because of health concerns, the NYPD and FDNY closed East 51st to East 54th streets from First to Lexington avenues, with people being urged to “steer clear” of the area.

Fortunately, air quality tests have so far continued to come back negative for asbestos and there were no injuries, according to Mayor Eric Adams and Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol.

“Every test we have run so far has been negative for asbestos in the air,” Iscol said. “The weather is certainly helping. The light rain today, the rain we will have overnight, will also help.”

Out of an abundance of caution, officials are continuing to recommend that New Yorkers who live in the area wear masks, stay indoors and keep windows closed until cleaning is completed. However, because the affected area is so large, officials say it may take days until the cleaning is done.

“It extends from Second Avenue in some areas, close to Park Avenue, 53rd, 52nd and 51st, and then a few doors down on the east side of these streets. It’s a big area we need to start cleaning up,” Iscol said. “That is being led by Con Ed and contracting teams. We expect these operations to take a few days, possibly more, just because it is a big area.”

The cleanup started with Third Avenue Wednesday night. Con Ed is leading the way as they cover storm drains, sewers and anything that could fill up with asbestos-laced water.

For hours, businesses were unable to open, tourists were turned away and delivery workers had to find alternate routes.

For people who live and work on the East Side, the steam leak and street closures presented a major headache for those trying to get to work or simply get back home.

“I’m just gonna get coffee and just see when they let people through,” said Iris Meinus, who lives in the area.

For Aura Piyada, whose Thai Vegan Friendly Kitchen is located in the heart of the closed-off zone, it’s disrupted business.

“I got an order right now that is like a delivery. I guess I wouldn’t be able to get inside,” the restaurant owner said.

On Wednesday evening, officials said that residents were allowed return to their homes and police were escorting anyone who has business in the area, but since the steam has been shut off temporarily for repairs, that means several buildings right now don’t have heat.

The cause of the leak is still under investigation.

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