Gas Explosions Ignite Dozens of Homes North of Boston

Posted September 15, 2018

At least one person has been killed and others injured after a series of suspected gas explosions rocked towns north of Boston in MA on Thursday evening.

Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, was killed after a house explosion sent a chimney falling onto his auto, according to the Essex District Attorney's Office.

Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating four victims with injuries related to the fires but did not provide details about their conditions.

Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.

State Police say at least 39 fires erupted Thursday afternoon in the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

State officials told residents who have gas service from Columbia Gas of MA to evacuate their homes immediately and said gas lines were being depressurized by the company.

He warned anyone with concerns to leave their houses and head to North Andover High School, which is being set up as a gathering point.

"The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area", it said in a statement.

As investigators from the National Transportation Safety Bureau traveled to the Merrimack Valley on Friday, residents and the media clamored for answers from Columbia Gas.

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

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said staff members were heading to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, along with state fire investigators.

"This has been an overwhelming event", Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael B. Mansfield told reporters.

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The officials said that they are investigating and ease out the pressure on the gas pipes.

Town officials in Andover are advising all residents and businesses to evacuate and to shut off their gas, if they know how to safely.

Officials said dozens of fires and explosions were reported after an apparent gas line problem.

Tran said when he opened his door to see what had happened, all he could see was smoke.

Johnny Tran, who lives near the house where a teenager was killed by the blasts in Lawrence, was at home when the explosions occurred.

Management for the American Gas Association (AGA), which represents more than 200 companies that deliver gas throughout the United States, said, "Our hearts go out to those who are suffering and have lost loved ones and homes as a result of the tragic incidents in MA".

Andover Police Department Lieutenant Eddie Guy told NBC's Today television show Friday morning that officials believe the blasts were caused by over-pressurized gas lines.

Massachusetts State Police tweeted: "Power company will be shutting OFF power to all of #Lawrence, #NorthAndover, and #Andover to assist in the gas situation".

"Weather permitting, work will take place Monday through Friday", Columbia Gas said in a statement. "We expect this will be an extended restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers". "We heard one thing, then something else happened", Baker said at a press conference, referring to Columbia Gas, a unit of NiSource Inc (NI.N).

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are 20 to 25 homes on fire in Lawrence.

In Lawrence, however, the entire south side of the city remained an evacuation zone as of 11 a.m. Friday.

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