City investigators were working to determine the cause of the rupture in the 20-inch pipe adjacent to a multi-family house that was under construction. As of Wednesday night, no serious injuries were reported, but representatives of the city's Office of Emergency Management said a task force was working to determine if any of the affected buildings along Ditmars Boulevard between 70th and Hazen streets had become structurally unsound.The pipe burst around 4:30 p.m., sending a geyser of water many feet into the air and inundating streets, low-lying alleyways and basements under as much as 10 feet of water. Emergency crews responded with Zodiac inflatable boats to help evacuate some residents, many of whom were elderly."We were in the basement trying to save some stuff and the door just blew open," said Frank Maffei, 25, whose house at 49-11 Ditmars Blvd. was flooded. "There's an alleyway in the back so that's where all the water poured in."A neighbor of Maffei's was using a motor boat parked behind his house to float atop the 10-foot-deep pond in the alleyway and inspect the damage to his home. "He hasn't been in that boat in 30 years," Maffei said. "He finally got a chance to use it."Douglas Greeley, deputy commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection, said investigators were looking into the cause of the accident. He said it was possible that a worker at the construction site at 69-17 Ditmars Blvd. might have struck the water main with a back hoe.It took more than two hours for a team of firefighters and DEP workers to locate the proper shut-off valve to stem the flow of water. Greeley said the team, floating in an inflatable boat, tapped a metal bar on the submerged roadbed to locate the manhole cover.After the water receded, investigators also were checking on the roadway's structural stability."The street has not been investigated yet," he said. "For the most part we're thinking the road surface might be alright."
©2005 Community News Group
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