Three manholes on West 43rd Street caught fire Sunday evening, causing panic as patrons of “Birthday Candles” attempted to leave the nearby American Airlines Theatre on opening night.
The incident was reported at 6:47 p.m. Sunday. Attendees at “Birthday Candles” described a scene of confusion and chaos as a loud noise reverberated through the streets, sounding as if a bomb had exploded. Many patrons who had just exited the theater, which has doors on 42nd and 43rd Street, came running back inside, dropping jewelry, wallets, purses and shoes in the lobby as they ran.
When the fire department arrived at the scene, firefighters discovered elevated carbon monoxide levels at 229 West 43rd Street and began the process of venting the cellar of the building.
There were no reported injuries at the scene, according to the New York City police and fire departments, nor within the theater.
The cast of “Birthday Candles” proceeded with opening night press following the curtain.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, West 43rd between 7th and 8th avenue and southbound 7th Avenue from West 46th to West 42nd Street remained closed to traffic.