Video: Strange odor in NYC

updated 1/8/2007 3:32:40 PM ET 2007-01-08T20:32:40

A mysterious smell of gas throughout much of Manhattan forced the evacuation of buildings and a temporary suspension of a commuter train service Monday as authorities scrambled to determine the source.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was not

dangerous. But a New Jersey official said seven people visited the hospital with odor-related complaints.

Nathan Rudy, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said seven people came to the emergency room complaining of symptoms relating to the odor. Rudy said six of them were in Hudson County, one in Bergen County. It was not immediately known how the patients got to the emergency rooms or whether they were admitted.

“It may just be an unpleasant smell, but at this point we do not know any more than that. The one thing we are confident about is, it is not dangerous,” Bloomberg told a news conference.

The wide extent of the odor provoked jitters in a city that is constantly reminded of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said “there is no indication at this time of a terrorism connection.”

The smell permeated lower Manhattan and was detected as far north as Central Park, across the width of the island, and in New Jersey across the Hudson River.

Part of the New York-New Jersey PATH commuter train system, which carries 225,000 passengers a day, was shut down temporarily as a precaution but normal service was quickly resumed.

‘No abnormal changes in gas flow’
Several office buildings were evacuated and their air conditioning systems shut down, but city officials soon told building managers that people could return to work.

“There have been no abnormal changes in gas flow in our gas transmission lines,” a spokesman for power utility Con Edison said. He declined to answer questions.

Police and fire sirens sounded throughout much of the city.

Bloomberg reported a small gas leak in lower Manhattan but said that was not nearly enough to account for the wide range of the odor.

The city was blanketed with low clouds and there was light rain and little wind.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said vessel traffic in New York Harbor was unaffected.

‘It’s really extreme’
Susan Badger, a retiree who lives in Chelsea, said she smelled the gas in the morning and left the apartment building at 27th Street and Eighth Avenue to escape the smell.

“If it’s throughout the whole city, it seems that it must be a lot of gas. It’s really extreme,” she said.

In August, a gaseous smell hit parts of Queens and Staten Island, sending seven people to the hospital.

Reuters contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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