- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A deadly explosion that leveled two buildings in East Harlem also rained debris onto the nearby elevated tracks of the Metro-North commuter railroad, halting service through Manhattan for the entire period between the morning and evening rushes.

Even after the debris was cleared, and the structural integrity of the viaduct that elevates the tracks was checked, service was held up as test trains were run past the explosion site at various speeds to see if vibrations would endanger the rescue effort.

Limited service to and from Grand Center Terminal on the New Haven and Harlem lines around 3:45 p.m. after fire officials granted approval, the railroad said.

An hour later, all four tracks were clear and the Hudson line was restored, it said.

Service had been halted immediately after the 9:30 a.m. explosion.

The railroad said trains were still moving slowly past the explosion scene, which was likely to extend crowding and delays.

On board, passengers pressed their faces to the windows, watching firefighters pour water on the buildings’ wreckage below.

Before service was restored, Metro-North directed suburbanites heading home to take subways to the Bronx to bypass the explosion scene, then walk to the commuter line’s Woodlawn, Wakefield or Yankee Stadium stations to connect with northbound trains.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said subways were running normally but were crowded.

At the Woodlawn station in midafternoon, a block-long line of commuters waited for trains. Some said the subway ride took an hour and a half.

Metro-North has experienced a spate of problems in recent months, including a derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and the death of a track worker who was hit by a train on Monday.

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