One killed, several injured after multiple gas blasts destroy Massachusetts homes

Posted September 15, 2018

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday declared a state of emergency for the Merrimack Valley, where at least three explosions and as many as 80 fires had been reported as of late Thursday night, including the cities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, whose residents were forced to evacuate.

Lawrence resident Leonel Rondon, 18, was killed in his auto when his home exploded and the chimney fell onto his vehicle, WCVB reports.

The 10 injured people are being treated for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to traumatic blast injuries, one of whom remains in a critical condition.

Around the same time, State Police said electricity was being shut off for all residents in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, where some were still reporting an odour tied to natural gas.

Massachusetts State Police say Columbia Gas is working to depressurize gas lines in the area.

Laurie Williams, 55, who lives in North Andover, said she drove home to find police and fire vehicles blocking streets near her home, and found out three nearby buildings were in flames.

The Eagle-Tribune newspaper in North Andover reports at least one home has been destroyed and several others have caught fire amid a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said.

Columbia Gas, which has 313,000 customers across the state, says an investigation is underway as the utility works to cut gas supply.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said in a press conference that 12-14 homes were directly impacted, and while they can't located a geographic area, if you have gas in your home, you should evacuate.

Authorities in MA say a natural gas issue is to blame for at least 39 fires that erupted in homes across communities north of Boston.

Ken Stammen, a NiSource spokesman, said in an email he could not confirm the details cited in the analyst note.

Authorities said all of the fires had been extinguished overnight and the situation was stabilizing.

Investigators are now scrambling to find out the cause of dozens of gas explosions.

The incident, in an area that's home to the famous Phillips Academy Andover whose alumni include George W. Bush and Humphrey Bogart, took place just as Hurricane Florence slammed the coast of the Carolinas farther south on the East Coast, threatening to leave 3 million homes and businesses without power.

"On a number of very significant issues we heard one thing and something else happened", Baker said of Columbia Gas.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it was sending a team to support the state's emergency response efforts.

"Replacing leak-prone infrastructure is a leading priority", the utility said in April. Andover officials said a firefighter was among the injured.

Gas service had been interrupted for 250 customers in Lawrence last month due to a "hit line by a third party", according to Columbia Gas.

Residents cover their face from the smoke while being evacuated from homes as firefighters battle a fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts. As of Friday afternoon, Bryant said the company had checked about 3,000 meters.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon claimed there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

"Weather permitting, work will take place Monday through Friday", Columbia Gas said in a statement.