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Gas explosions drive thousands out of homes in Boston suburbs

Gas explosions drive thousands out of homes in Boston suburbs

Massachusetts State Police reported 39 incidents on the network in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on Thursday.

At a press conference after his department extinguished 38 fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said he had not yet heard from Columbia. "There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me". That directed 20 fire engines and 10 fire ladder trucks to the Town of Andover plus the town's entire fire department.

Baker said state and local authorities were investigating but it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers.

"There's a lot more work that's left to be done", Gov. Baker said.

The fires stretched across dozens of blocks, Massachusetts State Police said.

"At this time, the focus remains on ensuring the public safety", Baker said.

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

He said in a tweet Thursday night that he had called the president of Columbia Gas "multiple times" to no avail. Hundreds spent the night in shelters, and school was cancelled as families waited to return to their homes.

Officials had cut power in the area and the streets were pitch black, save for emergency vehicle lights.

AMANDA SABGA/Staff photo People walk with suitcases and belongings down South Broadway Street in South Lawrence after a massive natural gas disaster that affected areas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

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

In this image take from video provided by WCVB in Boston, flames consume a home.

The head of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency says firefighters responded to 60 to 80 structure fires in the three communities affected by a series of natural gas explosions. Resident Ra Nam says he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off around 4.30pm.

When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out.

Lawrence General Hospital received 10 patients, one of whom was in critical condition and one listed as serious, according to spokeswoman Jill Halsey.

Fire investigators suspected "over-pressurisation of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas of MA, a unit of the utility NiSource Inc, caused the explosions, Andover fire chief Michael Mansfield told a news conference.

Columbia had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday. She said she was grateful when a neighbor came over to help her shut off her gas.

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

A bit later the statement says "We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this incident".

One person was killed Thursday as dozens of house fires burned in MA after reports of issues with the natural gas system.

Aerial footage showed houses in smoldering ruins.

One house in Lawrence exploded, sending the chimney flying.

Lawrence resident Bruce Razin was among the evacuees standing outside the Colonial Heights neighbourhood near the city's high school trying to decide what to do next.

"Homes literally exploding and people don't even know exactly why", Moulton said. "It's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous". "You can't see it, and in some cases you won't be able to smell it". The town of 35,000 residents is about 40 kilometres north of Boston near the New Hampshire border. "Lawrence is one community".

"We have been using all our resources to get this project as far down the road as possible", Bryant said. Several areas also opened their doors to accept animals who were affected by the fires and explosions.

Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the U.S.in recent years. Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the state's Public Service Commission found it had violated state safety regulations.

- A 2011 natural gas explosion killed five people in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that state's largest gas utility was fined by regulators, who called the company's safety record "downright alarming".


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