Panicked neighborhoods evacuate as gas blasts destroy Massachusetts homes

Blanche Robertson
September 14, 2018

Live TV images showed firefighters battling blazes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, around 25 miles (40 km) north of the MA capital.

Explosions and fires rocked almost 40 homes and businesses in three MA towns on Thursday, leaving at least six people injured, including two in critical condition.

"The issue is there could still be a gas leak in your home, and the danger is that it's an invisible thing", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said.

"Cases range from smoke inhalation to traumatic blast injuries", the hospital said, adding that one patient had been taken to another hospital.

Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, was killed after a house explosion sent a chimney falling onto his vehicle.

By late Thursday, all of the fires had been doused but many areas remained silent and dark after residents fled and power companies cut electricity to prevent further fires.

"Good thing I wasn't home or I wouldn't be talking about it", she said outside an elementary school in Lawrence that the Red Cross had converted into a shelter for about 170 people.

Residents and people working in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were urged to evacuate buildings or homes serviced by Columbia Gas after explosions and fires were reported.

Local media say the first of a series of explosions was triggered by an overpressurised gas line.

"It looked like Armageddon, it really did", Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. "This event will probably go on".

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Dozens of homes have been destroyed and entire neighbourhoods evacuated after a series of sudden gas explosions north of Boston, in the U.S. state of MA. Joseph Solomon, a police chief in the town of Lawrence, said there were so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

"Incidents are across a wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", state police said via Twitter.

He described the community as "very resilient" but warned people to make alternative arrangements until they are told it is safe to return.

Blasts in three towns north of Boston are thought to have been caused by the rupture of an overpressurised gas main.

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

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

CBS Boston station WBZ reports emergency crews have responded to dozens of different addresses and extensive damage could be seen at a number of homes.

Ra Nam (right), with his sons Evan (left) and Tristan (center), wait in a parking lot outside their Colonial Heights neighborhood in Lawrence, Mass., which was evacuated Thursday because of the fires and explosions.

Flames consume a home in Boston after a suspected gas explosion.

The state police said gas lines are now being depressurized by the company but warned that may take some time.

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