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Blast halts Metro-North service at Grand Central

A deadly building explosion Wednesday in East Harlem spewed debris on nearby Metro-North Railroad tracks, forcing the shutdown of its service into and out of Grand Central Terminal, one of the nation's busiest train stations.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said they expected a normal commute this morning on Metro-North. But they cautioned there was a possibility of continuing slow speed orders through the blast area at Park Avenue and 116th Street.

All service was halted much of Wednesday into and out of Grand Central after the morning explosion destroyed two buildings, littering four tracks on the Harlem line across the street with debris. Full service was resumed just before 5 p.m. after Metro-North crews cleared the debris from the tracks, which were inspected for third rail integrity and approved for operations by Metro-North and the New York City Fire Department, railroad officials said.

Two people were killed and 22 were injured in the blast. No railroad passengers or employees were hurt, and no trains were stranded because of the suspension, officials said.

Metro-North crews used construction equipment, including a crane capable of lifting 1,200 pounds, and a large dumpster to remove debris.

After full service resumed, Metro-North officials advised customers to continue to expect some crowding and delays, and for trains to reduce speeds through the Harlem neighborhood "to protect nearby railroad workers and to limit vibrations at the explosion site."

Before Metro-North crews cleared rubble scattered on two of the four tracks of the Harlem Line, just across the street from the explosion at Park Avenue at 116th Street, scores of train riders scrambled to complete their trips using the New York City subway system, which was cross-honoring railroad fares Wednesday.

Customers walked from some subway stops in the Bronx to nearby Metro-North stations, including Woodlawn and Yankees-East 153rd Street, to complete their trips.

Railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan said that earlier in the day the agency only had control of two of the four tracks near the explosion because New York Fire Department and police investigators used the other two tracks closer to the blast, in part, to view the rubble from the elevated vantage point.

In total, Metro-North carried 83.4 million passengers last year. About 82 million passengers each year travel through Grand Central, Metro-North's lone Manhattan terminal.

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