Neighborhoods evacuate; several homes destroyed

Nearly 40 fires and explosions erupt in Massachusetts

He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

At least 10 other people were injured as explosions and fires affected almost 40 homes and businesses in the state, CNN reported.

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.

Massachusetts State Police tweeted that the fires broke out across a wide swath in the city of Lawrence and the town of North Andover.

"It was very scary", she said. "There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work around determining exactly what happened and why".

Early on Friday (Saturday NZT), the utility issued a statement saying its crews need to visit each of the 8600 affected customers to shut off each gas metre and conduct a safety inspection.

Gov. Charlie Baker said state and local authorities were investigating but that it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers, acknowledging the "massive inconvenience" for those displaced by the explosions. Anyone in those towns who has gas service from Columbia Gas should leave their homes until further notice.

Before evacuating from North Andover, Jeremy Melvin described a chaotic scene near the plumbing shop where he works.

Officials had cut power in the area and the streets were pitch black, save for emergency vehicle lights. Six people were being treated at Lawrence General Hospital, spokeswoman Jill McDonald Halsey said. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

The Columbia Gas company had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. Hours before the explosions, the company had unveiled plans to upgrade gas lines across MA, including in the areas where the blasts happened.

She added that she wants to ensure the gas company "is willing to spend the money on the people, on the overtime".




The town of 35,000 residents is about 26 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire border.

Massachusetts State Police (MSP) confirmed on Twitter that at least 70 locations were affected by fires, explosions and "investigations of gas odor".

About 120 people and their pets spent Thursday night at North Andover High School's Field House.

Aerial footage taken by ABC Boston affiliate WCVB showed firefighters battling flames in a residential neighborhood that sent thick plumes of smoke into the air. At one, the upper portion of a brick chimney crushed an SUV parked in the driveway.

The blasts on Thursday killed one person and left more than a dozen injured in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence - North of Boston - and stranded more than 18,000 homes and businesses without power, according to emergency officials.

South Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera urged residents to stay away from their homes. "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".

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

The utility said it was "working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this incident in order to understand its cause". Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the state's Public Service Commission found Con Ed violated state safety regulations.

No additional gas-related emergencies had been reported on Friday.

Teams consisting of gas technicians, fire and police personnel were going door-to-door to make sure the gas is shut off to about 8,600 meters.

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