By Julie Shapiro
MIDTOWN WEST — A manhole explosion on West 40th Street Monday reportedly sent flames three stories into the air and smoke billowing into the street blocks away from where a car bomb was found in Times Square.
Fire engines raced through Midtown shortly before 2 p.m. as black smoke rose from manholes between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. No one was injured, but the incident exacerbated the jitter already felt in the area after the bombing plot was uncovered.
Abdelrazek Hegazy, who owns a food cart at the corner of 40th Street and Eighth Avenue, said he heard a small explosion and then saw the smoke.
He said he rushed into Eighth Avenue and stopped cars from turning east onto 40th Street until the FDNY arrived.
An FDNY spokesman said there was a fire and the New York Times reported that flames shot three stories from the manhole into the air.
A firefighter on the scene blamed a transformer explosion.
Con Ed spokeswoman Elizabeth Clark said there was just smoke and no fire. There were no injuries reported, Clark and the FDNY said.
Fire officials had to evacuate 218 W. 40th Street because of high carbon monoxide levels in the basement, fire officials said.
Carmela Minervini, who works in the neighboring building, 240 W. 40th Street, said she and her colleagues were frightened by the incident.
“Because of what happened this weekend, I think everyone’s a little uneasy,” Minervini said.