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Stuck NYC Subway Riders Desperately Try to Break Out of Train

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    Desperate straphangers stuck for nearly an hour in a powerless subway car with no air conditioning tried to break out of an F train at Manhattan's Broadway-Lafayette station Monday evening. Lori Bordonaro reports.

    (Published Tuesday, June 6, 2017)

    This is what happens when the New York City subway literally feels like hell.

    Desperate straphangers stuck for nearly an hour in a powerless subway car with no air conditioning tried to break out of an F train at Manhattan's Broadway-Lafayette station Monday evening, video posted to Twitter shows. 

    The woman who captured the video from the platform said passengers were "dripping with sweat, begging to get off." 

    People inside the train were barely visible from the fogged-up windows, video shows. Fingers and hands jammed their way through the seal of the car doors, attempting to force them open.

    When the doors finally opened, the heat bottled inside the train was palpable as people tumbled off while yelling, "Do not get on this train," according to the woman who took the video. 

    The video quickly went viral, getting retweeted nearly 1,000 times in three hours. One horrified observer said it was "traumatizing" to watch the video.

    "MTA, this is crazy. Someone could have died in that heat," said another. 

    "THIS IS ABSOLUTE MADNESS," someone else tweeted.

    One stuck rider recounted the "very memorable yet not so fun" experience in a public Facebook post.

    "First, we were told it was train traffic ahead of us (you know that lie all too well). As we waited with no further communication, people started getting very worried. Almost everyone began fanning themselves with paper... Beads of sweat began rolling down people's faces," wrote Michael Sciaraffo. 

    People opened side windows and pried open the doors as much as they could, jamming them open with books, just so they could get cross ventilation from passing trains, he said. 

    "Coats started getting removed, and then people were sweating so much from standing in this crowded oven that people started taking off shirts and some pants," said Sciaraffo. "One lady disrobed while others covered her with a jacket so no one could see."

    "Some people started getting faint, and we started to identify any elderly people or pregnant women on the car who were standing or needed water so they could sit and drink," he said. "Claustrophobia, panic and heat exhaustion began to set in for many folks. At this point, windows started getting steamed up."

    Sciaraffo said after about a half hour of "heightened anxiety," a conductor finally announced what happened: there was a "severe maintenance malfunction" and the train was unable to move. 

    "At this point, we began to discuss making decisions about how we were going to evacuate, who would go first and who would need help," he wrote.

    That's when the train began to jerk slightly -- another train from behind had started to push it ahead into the next station.

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    But the nightmare was far from over: once the train pulled into Broadway-Lafayette, riders had to wait another 10 minutes, sweating in the dark, as authorities tried to clear the "mob" of people that had filled the platform. 

    "People started to yell things like, 'Please get me off' and 'I feel sick,'" said Sciaraffo.

    An MTA spokesman said a mechanical issue knocked out power to the train north of the Broadway-Lafayette station. The MTA says it's investigating the incident, including the train crew's communication to people on the train. 

    "While the rail control center and service supervisor responded promptly to this problem, we need to continue the push to minimize both the frequency and the duration of system failures and delays," the MTA spokesman said in a statement. "That is the goal of the six-point plan announced last month." 

    The video sparked renewed calls on Twitter to fix the aging subway, which has seen more signal issues, delays and cancellations recently: there have been five major subway meltdowns in the last month alone, according to transit watchdog group Riders Alliance. Recent power outages on the subway have been blamed on Con Edison equipment.  

    "Yeah I left NYC in part because of this two weeks ago," tweeted @mghallock. "My F train commute went from like 25 minutes to over an hour this last half year." 

    @Jelliot replied wryly, "#MTA added new sauna cars to help deal with the stress of commuting on a perpetually broken subway system."

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    The subway system is undoubtedly taxed: News 4 reported in April that the MTA's aging fleet break down 120,000 miles, or every two years. That's far worse than seven years ago, when trains broke down every four years, or 200,000 miles. New subway cars are set to hit the tracks later this year.