Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Gas explosions: Gov. declares state of emergency, police avert 'catastrophic event'

Gas explosions: Gov. declares state of emergency, police avert 'catastrophic event'

Lawrence resident Ra Nam told CNN affiliate WCVB that a boiler in his house caught fire.

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.

The residents of the three communities north of Boston, serviced by Columbia Gas, have been ordered to evacuate after a reported gas line rupture triggered a series of violent explosions.

According to Methuen Police Chief Joseph Soloman there were 20 fires burning in Andover, 20-25 in Lawrence and 20-25 in North Andover.

"It was very scary", Williams told Reuters by telephone, describing smoke visible to her on the skyline. "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".

The North Andover area is covered by Columbia Gas of MA, but its electric provider National Grid said electric crews were responding to assist.

"Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident", Indiana-based NiSource said in a statement.

Town officials in Andover are advising all residents and businesses to evacuate and to shut off their gas, if they know how to safely.

The streets were darkened after nightfall as power was cut off to the area as a precaution.

"Good thing I wasn't home or I wouldn't be talking about it", she said outside an elementary school in Lawrence that the Red Cross had converted into a shelter for about 170 people. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

Even though there was no immediate report on the case of the fire, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the gas lines that had become over-pressurized.

Columbia had announced earlier on Thursday (Friday NZT) that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened.

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

She added that she wants to ensure the gas company "is willing to spend the money on the people, on the overtime". The three communities, near the New Hampshire border, together have more than 146,000 residents.

A day after a series of deadly gas-related fires and explosions tore through MA neighborhoods, the governor declared a state of emergency - just as authorities said they had detected a major gas leak under a street that could have led to a "catastrophic" event. "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.

He warned anyone with concerns to leave their houses and head to North Andover High School, which is being set up as a gathering point.

Live TV pictures show firefighters tackling blazes engulfing a number of houses. At one, the upper portion of a brick chimney crushed an SUV parked in the driveway.

In Lawrence, however, the entire south side of the city remained an evacuation zone as of 11 a.m. Friday. "We will get units out there".

As a result, Baker put rival utility Eversource Energy (ES.N) in charge of the response to the explosion, replacing Columbia Gas.

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.

- In 2014, a gas explosion in New York City's East Harlem neighbourhood killed eight people and injured about 50.

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