Panicked Suburban Boston Neighborhoods Evacuate as Gas Blasts Destroy Homes

Lamar Ellis
September 15, 2018

The explosions and emergency response caused Amtrak to cancel four train routes between Boston and Maine.

The blasts forced entire neighborhoods to evacuate as crews scrambled to fight the flames and shut off the gas. Gas remained shut off on Friday (Saturday NZT) in most of the area, and the streets were eerily deserted.

State police received between 60 and 100 reports of fires and gas explosions in the Merrimack region.

"Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities", the statement said.

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 fires were reported across a "wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", the state police said.

Schools were to be closed Friday in Lawrence and Andover.

Andover's fire chief Mike Mansfield said: "It looked like Armageddon, it really did".

People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke.

Gov. Charlie Baker said on Twitter that he's monitoring the situation and that he urged residents to "heed instructions from local officials" about evacuations and "suspending gas usage".

Fire crews then spent hours going from property to property tackling blazes, as gas technicians rushed to shut off gas supplies and assist in safety checks.

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Fire crews from around MA and Southern New Hampshire worked together Thursday to extinguish the dozens of fires that broke out throughout the afternoon and evening. The Columbia Gas company had announced earlier that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not immediately comment. Andover, North Andover and Lawrence were included in the planned projects.

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The streets were darkened after nightfall as power was cut off to the area as a precaution. Andover officials asked residents and businesses in gas-serviced neighborhoods to evacuate.

"We took off. I said, 'Pack up, we're out of here,"' said Charest, who went with her 93-year old father and cat to a relative's home. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

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.

Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque told local paper The Eagle-Tribune that he's "never seen anything like this".

Nam says he ran downstairs and saw that his boiler was on fire.

Minutes later, Nam says he heard a loud boom come from his neighbor's house and the ground shook.

He said a woman and two kids had made it out of the house but the basement was on fire.

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

Firefighters battle a large structure fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents and are located about 42 kilometres north of Boston.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said it appeared the gas lines had become over-pressurised. At least 25 other people reportedly were injured. Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the state's Public Service Commission found it had violated state safety regulations.

No additional gas-related emergencies had been reported on Friday. "Call Columbia Gas to do that", he said in a tweet.

- In September 2010, a Pacific Gas and Electric gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

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