Authorities Respond to Numerous Gas Explosions, Fires in Northern Massachusetts

Evarado Alatorre
Setiembre 14, 2018

The Massachusetts State Police said, "MSP Troopers on scene, more responding, to Lawrence/Andover/North Andover to assist with scene security and traffic control after multiple suspected gas explosions and structure fires".

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon was killed inside a auto in Lawrence when a chimney fell on his vehicle from a house explosion, a spokeswoman with the Essex County District Attorney's office said.

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.

Firefighters raced for hours from one blaze to another and utility crews rushed to shut off gas and electricity to prevent further explosions on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday before the fires broke out, the utility company that services the area announced it would be upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state.

There will be no school today in Andover, Lawrence or North Andover.

The injured are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital and two people are said to be in a critical condition.

Emergency management officials believe over-pressurized gas lines triggered the fires, but investigators have yet to reveal an official cause, CBS News' Kenneth Craig reports.

Andover Police sent out an automated phone call telling residents to evacuate their homes and turn off the gas, and North Andover Police told residents and businesses with gas service to exit their buildings until further notice. Video showed roofs and walls consumed by flames that billowed thick black smoke. Schools in all three communities were cancelled for Friday, and some schools were being used as shelters for residents. "My first thought was this is a gas explosion".

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Columbia Gasalso said it's working with officials to "investigate this incident in order to understand its cause".

Andover officials said they extinguished all 35 fires in their town after authorities struck a 10-alarm response, its maximum traditional fire response.

It is not clear whether maintenance work was happening at the time of the blasts.

Massachusetts State Police said a total of 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odor had been reported.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky", while Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque said he's "never seen anything like this". "What we need folks to do is that if it's happening in your home, you have a amusing smell, just evacuate, come out to the street".

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 40 kilometres north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.

"It's definitely a scary situation at the moment", he said.

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

Customers who smell the odor of gas are asked to leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911.

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