Fire Halts Rail Service, Rough Morning Commute Expected

NEW YORK (AP) -
In this photo provided by Ben Parkin, firefighter battle a fire runder the Metro-North railroad tracks in New York, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Train service into and out of Grand Central is being delayed due to the fire. (Ben Parkin via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Firefighters battle a fire under the Metro-North railroad tracks in New York, Tuesday. (Ben Parkin via AP)

New York City commuters should expect long delays, crowded conditions and limited service Wednesday after a raging fire broke out beneath elevated train tracks in the city, officials said.

The blaze ignited Tuesday evening at a garden center business underneath Metro-North tracks in East Harlem, halting train service and stranding thousands of commuters.

Metro-North said service into and out of Grand Central Terminal would remain suspended on all three Metro-North lines until further notice.

“Metro-North personnel are working through the night to inspect the structure to determine the extent of the structural damage and make temporary repairs,” the railroad company said in a statement late Tuesday.

Metro-North said it would run a Saturday schedule for the Wednesday morning rush hour with trains stopping in the Bronx so passengers could connect to subway service into Manhattan.

More than 150 firefighters responded to the blaze, which officials said also involved construction debris and several trailers and vehicles, and may have blown off bolts from the tracks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the scene and detailed the damage, WCBS-TV reported.

“The fire was so hot that they could hear the rivets, the bolts popping,” Cuomo said.

Buildings on both sides of the street were evacuated.

“I opened my window to climb down on my fire escape, and the smoke started getting … heavier,” Antone Rosas told the media station.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury when he slipped, but no civilians were hurt.

Fire officials said crews worked hard to control the fire, which remained under investigation.

“They got in there, they contained the fire to this one area,” said James Leonard, chief of department for the Fire Department of New York. “Hopefully, we contained the damage, and we can get the people back on the railroad.”