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Gas explosions spark fires in dozens of homes in MA

14 September 2018

ANDOVER - Dozens of explosions, apparently triggered by a natural gas pipeline rupture, rocked three communities near Boston on Thursday, injuring at least six people and prompting the evacuation of hundreds, local officials said.

Authorities said an 18-year-old man has died after a house exploded amid gas explosions north of Boston, sending a chimney crashing into his auto.

All Columbia Gas customers in South Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were told to evacuate their homes.

Massachusetts State Police said that the gas lines are being depressurized, but noted that the process "will take some time". Authorities are evacuating residents from parts of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Some 8,000 people were driven from their homes in the Boston suburbs by a series of gas explosions, and it was unclear on Friday (Sept 14) when they could go back.

"We're also sending Engine 2 directly to a fire burning of Route 114 in Lawrence right now", said Goonan.

It wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured.

That occurred when a Columbia Gas technician called to investigate a gas odor at a nightclub accidentally punctured a line, the state Department of Public Utilities said in a report.

Officials said it will be at least a day if not longer before many residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

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. Schools in all three communities were canceled for Friday, and some schools were being used as shelters for residents.

"Gas lines are now being depressurised", police said on Twitter, adding that "it will take some time".

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Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the U.S. in recent years.

State officials said Columbia Gas was working to ease pressure on gas lines following the fires.

State police are reporing 70 fires and gas explosions were reported today.

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

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles (40 kilometres) north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon in nearby Methuen says there are 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.

"We are coordinating with our law enforcement partners as expected and personnel are on scene, as we normally would be in a situation like this to assess the situation", the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Lawrence City Councillor Marc Laplante said "people need to get out ..." Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

Officials urged all residents in the area who are Columbia Gas customers to evacuate, "as should anyone else who smells gas".

Gas explosions spark fires in dozens of homes in MA