Series of explosions ignites more than 70 homes in MA
- Nathaniel Lee
The three communities house more than 146,000 residents and are located about 42 kilometres north of Boston.
Officials urged all residents in the area who are Columbia Gas customers to evacuate, "as should anyone else who smells gas". "We will support you and your family", Rivera said at a news conference Friday, speaking in English and Spanish.
- 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". Gas service was being shut off to the affected areas and gas lines were being depressurized.
MA police say the explosions in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover rocked numerous neighbourhoods on Thursday afternoon and evacuations are underway where gas odours were present. His house burned almost to the ground, but after rushing home to check on his family and warn his neighbors to evacuate, he went back on patrol.
An 18-year-old man died and at least 25 people were injured in the fires and explosions.
Officials in Andover previously said at least three people, including a firefighter, had been injured in the town.
State Police say they have confirmed fires at 39 locations but warn the number will grow.
Firefighters battled dozens of fires September 13, 2018, in three MA towns after a series of gas explosions.
Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters the explosions "looked like Armageddon, it really did", according to the Associated Press.
Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, one of the affected towns, said of the company, "It just seemed like there's no one in charge, like they're in the weeds, and they've never seen this before".
He said there were so many fires "you can't even see the sky".
With a backpack filled with personal items he had hastily grabbed, he said he'd head to his mother's home a few towns over for the night.
Doyle was at a shelter set up at North Andover High School on Friday, picking up food and other supplies to take to a fire station from which it could be distributed.
By 7:00pm local time, officials in Andover said all fires in the town had been extinguished.
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When it comes to leaks, though, Columbia Gas is doing better than National Grid.
Chief Keefe notes that police resources from throughout Massachusetts have responded to Andover, including the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) Rapid Response Team, the NEMLEC Motor Unit, and the Massachusetts State Police. Columbia Gas has been upgrading its gas system across the state.
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.
State Police said it was "far too early to speculate" on the cause of the incidents. "Joint investigation will be conducted when situation is stabilized".
Tactical flight officer and Trooper Eric Fairchild was monitoring the aircraft's forward looking infrared camera "when he observed an anomaly under the pavement at the intersection of Broadway and Andover St".
Crews work to knock down a fire. "Safety is our top priority", it said.
Officials from the state's Department of Public Utilities were in the Merrimack Valley investigating Friday.
John Fluegge said he came home Thursday to find a note on the door of his apartment building saying everyone had to leave. "It's terrible for the people affected, but a pretty small impact in terms of the gas market". They said they do not have the storage for them.
Since 2010, there have been 27 major incidents, 10 of which involved Columbia Gas - the most of any one utility company.
"Whatever the demand is tonight, the communities will meet those needs", he said.
"I was on my way to work", she said.
The state police tweeted that local authorities and state troopers were helping evacuate residents to a senior center and a middle school while detectives and others investigated multiple scenes.
If authorities don't know what caused this yet, then it seems likely the area won't have gas service again until the cause is determined and the problem is corrected.
He also said that there were "no incidents on the street" Thursday night into Friday. Grateful to all our first responders working to help.
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