Hundreds Evacuated After Explosion in News Corp. Tower

NY Sun - December 18, 2007

by CHRISTOPHER FAHERTY

A chemical explosion yesterday on the top floor of the News Corp. tower in Midtown left two people with injuries and hundreds of evacuated employees waiting outside in the cold, officials said.

The explosion on the 45th floor, which contains mechanical equipment for the tower, was caused when two chemicals came in contact during a routine audit of the building's climate control system, the director of the hazardous materials unit at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Enzo Catanzaro, said. After receiving reports of the explosion at about 10:40 a.m., firefighters rushed to the building and evacuated offices on the 42nd through 44th floors as a precautionary measure, officials said. Sixth Avenue near 47th Street was closed down.

Three inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection were on the 45th floor performing the audit when the blast occurred, a spokeswoman for the department, Mercedes Padilla, said. One of the inspectors, Faisal Aldafari, sustained a gash on his head and was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, she said. A fire department battalion chief, who was not identified, began to feel queasy inside the building and was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center with chest pains, fire department officials said. None of the injuries are believed to be life threatening, officials said.

Offices for JPMorgan Chase, the Sojitz Corp., and Abbott Capital are located on the three floors that were evacuated, Jennifer Manley, a spokeswoman for the building manager, Cushman & Wakefield Inc., said.

Evacuees were not allowed to re-enter the tower until about 1 p.m., fire officials said.

Inspectors from the Department of Buildings determined there was no serious damage to the mechanical room and that the incident did not affect the structural integrity of the building, the assistant commissioner of communications for the department, Robin Brooks, said in a statement.

The 45-story News Corp. building at 1211 Sixth Ave. houses the offices of the Fox Broadcasting Co. and the New York Post.