A morning water main break at West Broadway and Duane Street nearly three blocks long has flooded about 15 buildings, causing five to be evacuated in the vicinity, officials said.
The 12-inch main broke at about 2:20 a.m. Friday, and the Department of Environmental Protection temporarily shut off all water to the area.
It gushed for about three hours, and continued to trickle as workers dug up the street.
Officials said 133, 135, 137 141 and 145 West Broadway all had to be evacuated, and there was up to four feet of waters in cellars.
West Broadway has been closed from Reade to Worth Street and Duane Street has been closed from Hudson to Church, as fire crews set up sandbags at 60 Hudson.
The rupture is expected to take a few days to completely fix. Service has been delayed on the 1, 2, and 3 trains and the M20 bus has been rerouted.
Most of the buildings affected are five or six stories, with apartments and small businesses.
"Everything is totally ruined," said a devastated-looking Sharon Hershkowitz, who owns a heavily affected building and its ground floor business, Balloon Saloon.
Her damaged inventory included party supplies, balloons and cards. She said she wouldn't be able to deliver orders Friday for several birthday parties and corporate events.
"In these economic hard times, you don't want to lose any customers," she said.
One of her tenants, resident Larry Blasius, awoke around 2:30 a.m. when firefighters pounded on his door.
"I looked out and saw the river of water below," said Blasius, who ended up standing on the street, looking sleepy but resigned. "I've lived in New York City all my life. You put up with all the inconveniences."
The water main dates was installed in 1870.
"Eventually it's going to go; it can't last forever," said Deputy Fire Chief James Daly.
After hours of excavation, workers reached the cast iron pipe, about 5 feet under the street. Then they began removing the broken portion so it could be replaced.
The mess also disrupted service on three subway lines and three bus routes that serve the area.