The News reports that an underground steam pipe just exploded in NY city.?

We dont have underground steam pipes in the UK so I know nothing about them. What are they all about? Do they exist only in NY or in other cities and towns too? Where does the steam come from? What is it for? How is the steam powered? How often do they explode?

This should go some way to explaining it.

You'll have seen in American films someone breaking a pipe, usually in a basement, and directing a jet of steam into someone's face to scald them. The Bone Collector has a scene in which a victim is sat in front of a steam pipe, waiting for the steam to be released.

I think the piped steam is a good system, but if you do a quick web search you'll find some problems with it, asbestos lagging on older pipes, leaking pipes and explosions like the one today.
I also found an article about a town that no longer uses steam and now cockroaches have moved into the defunct steam pipes, yuk!
Steam is obtained from a boiler and is used for heating purposes it has been around for a long time in America.~~

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