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New York City, NY Tunnel Explosion, May 1949


New York, N.Y. -- The Manhattan-bound tube of the Holland Tunnel, damaged by a fire and explosion that injured seventy persons, was cleared of all debris today and Port of New York authorities said it would be opened to traffic this afternoon.
The fire was touched off when a chemical-laden truck exploded and Hudson County Prosecutor Horace K. Roberson said he would begin an investigation immediately to determine whether anyone connected with the vehicle was guilty of negligence. He said his findings would be presented to the grand jury, should such action be warranted.
One hundred and fifty helmeted city employes using bulldozers, huge dump trucks and other equipment, worked throughout the night clearing the tunnel of wrecked and burned automobiles and trucks. Tons of debris were piled outside the Jersey entrance to the 8,462 foot tunnel, the principal vehicular artery from Jersey City to Manhattan.
The American Telephone and Telegraph Company also sent a crew of twenty-five into the tube to repair the damage that created the worst communications tie-up in its history.
Austin J. Tobin, executive director of the port authority, said the tunnel "will be open by late this afternoon." He called the damage to the tube
"By 'superficial'", he said, "I mean that none of the vital parts of the tunnel have been affected."
The truck explosion occurred approximately 3,000
feet from the Jersey end of the tube. The truck, a sixteen-ton trailer, was loaded with eighty big fifty-five gallon drums of poisonous and highly-inflammable carbon disulphide, a chemical used as a solvent.
When the truck exploded, other vehicles speeding through the tunnel crashed into it and caught fire. Drivers and passengers escaped from the smoke-filled tunnel by using a three-foot catwalk that runs
along the side. Severald were hospitalized, however, from smoke poisoning and burns. None was reported in serious condition.
Port authorities estimated the damage to the $47,000,000 tunnel between $500,000 and $1,000,000. The loss was covered by insurance, they said.

Olean Times Herald New York 1949-05-14

article | by Dr. Radut