Published: Fri, September 14, 2018

Mass. gas blasts injures at least 3

Mass. gas blasts injures at least 3

A series of gas explosions Thursday caused fires at more than 70 homes in the Merrimack Valley region of MA.

Leonel Rondon, from Lawrence, Mass., was sitting inside a auto when an explosion toppled a chimney that crashed into that vehicle, officials said.

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

Emergency officials, meanwhile, are urging people to get out of their houses and evacuate their neighborhoods in the three communities as firefighters battle dozens of gas explosions that leveled some houses and set fire to others over a large area.

Before the explosions, Columbia Gas had said it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs. Andover, North Andover and Lawrence were included in the planned projects. All of those fires have been extinguished, but at peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time.

The teenager was taken to hospital but pronounced dead at 8.30pm, while 12 patients are being treated for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to blast trauma.

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.

At least one person was killed in the explosions and several injured.

State police said any residents of the area with Columbia Gas service to their house should "evacuate immediately". The fires were reported across a "wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", the state police said.

Late on Thursday 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.

The explosions caused widespread confusion and panic as officials and homeowners alike struggled to understand what was happening - with some worrying whether their properties would be next.

Columbia Gas, a unit of utility NiSource Inc, is investigating, NISource spokesman Ken Stammen said on Thursday.

Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the United States in recent years.

Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky". "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", he said.

Some residents were evacuated from their homes to senior centers and middle schools as officials investigated the situation, police said.

Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque told the paper one home in the area had been "demolished" by a blast.

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

Warren and Seaman said the last time they responded to MA for a major blaze was the Malden Mills factory fire in Lawrence in 1995.

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