Gas explosions set homes north of Boston on fire

Posted September 15, 2018

A utility company says it will "work tirelessly to restore service" after a series of gas explosions an official described as "Armageddon" killed a teenager, injured at least 25 other people and ignited fires in at least 39 homes in three communities north of Boston.

Authorities said an 18-year-old man has died after a house exploded amid gas explosions north of Boston, sending a chimney crashing into his auto.

At least 10 other people were injured as explosions and fires affected almost 40 homes and businesses in the state, CNN reported.

"Columbia Gas company had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened".

North Andover police drove through the downtown area to warn residents to evacuate their homes if they smelled gas and diverted officers to Lawrence to assist. Red Cross reception centers were setup at the Andover Senior Center and Youth Center, North Andover High School, as well as Parthum and Arlington Schools in Lawrence.

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, one of the affected towns, said of the company, "It just seemed like there's no one in charge, like they're in the weeds, and they've never seen this before".

Experts from state regulatory agencies, as well as federal officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Department of Transportation's Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration were on scene to investigate the incident.

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Residents in the area who have service from Columbia Gas "should evacuate their homes immediately", state police said.

The investigation into the cause of the explosions and fires remains active and ongoing.

"We are asking everybody with gas in their homes to leave their homes until further notice", North Andover town manager Andrew Maylor told one local television station.

Keefe, and Fire Chief Michael Mansfield report that the Town of Andover is now involved in a major gas-related emergency.

"Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today", NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen said.

The outlet also reported a handful of basement fires within Andover, hearing on the police scanner that evacuations were underway.

Initial reports to authorities began around 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and the Massachusetts State Police said it had received at least 70 reports of fires and natural gas odors.

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Injuries were said to have ranged from "minor to smoke inhalation and blast trauma", with several other patients being treated for existing medical conditions that needed "assistance because of the fires".

Nearly 18,000 customers had been left without power because of the emergency switch-offs, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. "Everyone wants answers. And we deserve them", Moulton said. It said it was conducting safety checks and supporting first responders.

"There could be still a gas leak in your home", Rivera said.

It wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured.

Columbia Gas President Steve Bryant, speaking at a televised news conference on Friday, said, "We advanced this as rapidly as it could possibly be advanced". Columbia Gas is working to shut off gas service, and we will re-evaluate from there.

"When you return to your home, if the gas is turned off, under no circumstances should you turn it back on", Schwartz said.

"You can't even see the sky", Solomon said.

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