Off topic for the Dove, but I witnessed such an explosion almost twenty years ago: Huge steam pipe blast kills one in NYC - Yahoo! News.
An underground steam pipe explosion tore through a Manhattan street near Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, swallowing a tow truck and killing one person as hundreds of others ran for cover amid a towering geyser of steam and flying rubble. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the explosion was not terrorism, though the blast caused a brief panic about a possible attack.
"There is no reason to believe whatsoever that this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure," he said of the 24-inch steam pipe installed in 1924.
One person was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital from an apparent heart attack, Bloomberg said. About 30 people were injured, at least four seriously. Authorities could not immediately account for how the most seriously wounded victims were injured.
In the summer of 1989 I was visiting friends on the edge of Gramercy Park when an enormous shattering explosion shook the house. I happened to be looking out the window, away from the explosion (which was down the street but not visible from my window) and I saw an older man come out of a corner store, look toward the noise, and begin screaming in horror. This frightened me more than the actual first impact. The noise was incredible - a kind of metallic clattering amidst an epic roar like a huge engine turbine. The sound went on, and on, and on. My friend thought it was an earthquake at first (she'd grown up in California) and she ran to the doorsill.
We didn't panic but we almost did. It was a terrifying, out of control accident. The authorities could not bring the steam under control for some long while.
Two Three people died in that explosion - a steam pipe in an apartment building. The resulting mess rendered several apartment buildings uninhabitable for months, because the pipes were asbestos and spewed harmful particles all over everything and everywhere. I don't believe I was exposed to the particles - I was inside, not in view, and a block away, and I left the area an hour or two later. But it was a terrifying event. (Note that the Yahoo article refers to this earlier explosion).
I feel for the citizens of New York, who must be very jittery these days. And I am very sorry for the victims of the accident.
Again, this has nothing to do with Middle East peace, or war, or even the environment. It's just a bizarre catastrophe that I happen to have witnessed once before.
Update: New York Magazine's Intelligencer links to this post. Hey, thanks guys!