It looked like Armageddon: Gas explosions destroy homes

\It looked like Armageddon:\ Gas explosions destroy homes
1 killed and several injured after suspected gas explosions in Massachusetts
(CNN)A man was killed as a series of explosions and fires rocked nearly 40 homes and businesses in three Massachusetts towns on Thursday, according to the Essex County District Attorneys office.

MSP Fusion Center has current updated tally of responses to fires/explosions/investigations of gas odor at 70. Spread over wide swath of south #Lawrence and northern part of #NorthAndover with several others across Merrimack River in north Lawrence.

All off-ramps on I-495 from Exits 41 through 45 in the area remain closed early Friday morning. On-ramps remained open to allow evacuations. MBTA service in the area was also impacted. The Haverhill Line commuter rail will only run between Reading and North Station on Friday. Buses will run from Haverhill and Bradford to Woburn.

Authorities said Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, died after a chimney toppled by an exploding house crashed into his car. He was rushed to a Boston hospital but pronounced dead there in the evening.

An issue with a high pressure gas main impacted South Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. Anyone who has gas service from Columbia Gas was told to leave their homes until further notice. 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.

Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said state and local authorities are investigating but that it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers.

MSP Fusion Center has current updated tally of responses to fires/explosions/investigations of gas odor at 70. Spread over wide swath of south #Lawrence and northern part of #NorthAndover with several others across Merrimack River in north Lawrence.

“This is still very much an active scene,” he 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 Friday the governor said the immediate focus remained on ensuring public safety. Once that work is done, Baker said, well work with federal government and others to investigate how this occurred and to hold the appropriate parties accountable for their actions.

Hours after the explosions, the utilitys parent company issued a brief statement saying its crews were still performing safety checks in the area.

Panicked neighborhoods evacuate as gas blasts destroy Massachusetts homes

“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by todays incident,” Indiana-based NiSource said in a statement. “The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community.”

The Eagle-Tribune newspaper in North Andover reports at least one home has been demolished and several others have caught fire amid a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

Baker previously said authorities hadnt heard directly from Columbia Gas, but later called the companys response “adequate.”

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are 20 to 25 homes on fire in Lawrence. Solomon, whos in Lawrence, says there are so many fires “you cant even see the sky.”

By late Thursday, all of the fires had been doused but many areas remained silent and dark after residents fled and after power companies cut electricity to prevent further fires. Schools in all three communities were canceled for Friday, and some schools were being used as shelters for residents.

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Emergency crews are responding to what they believe is a series of gas explosions that have damaged homes across three communities north of Boston.

Lawrence resident Bruce Razin was among the evacuees standing outside the Colonial Heights neighborhood near the citys high school trying to decide what to do next late Thursday.

Massachusetts State Police say troopers are responding to the area to help secure areas after “multiple suspected gas explosions.”

Officials had cut power in the area and the streets were pitch black, save for emergency vehicle lights. Razin said he arrived just as residents were being evacuated, and immediately saw the house two doors down was leveled from an explosion.

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“I couldnt imagine if that was my house,” said Razin, who purchased his home nearly two years ago. “Its total destruction. Id be completely devastated.”

"Numerous evacuations of neighborhoods where there are gas odors are underway," MSP tweeted. Columbia Gas was working to depressurize its gas lines, which "will take some time," while National Grid cut electricity to the three towns "to limit spark-started fires."

With a backpack filled with personal items he had hastily grabbed, he said hed head to his mothers home a few towns over for the night.

In Lawrence, a man whose neighborhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing. Resident Ra Nam says he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off around 4:30 p.m. EDT Thursday.

Video: Mass. explosion topples chimney, kills teen

Man killed, 12 injured after 70 gas explosions, fires rock homes north of Boston

When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out. Minutes later, Nam said he heard a loud boom from his neighbors house and the ground shook. Nam said a woman and two kids had made it out of the house but the basement was on fire.

Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating 10 victims, including at least one in critical condition.

Lawrence, North Andover, Andover Fires & Explosions: So much smoke you cant even see the sky

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurized but said investigators were still examining what happened.

Merrimack College, which is located in North Andover, advised that "in an over abundance of caution," students and faculty needed to evacuate all buildings on campus, but later said all buildings were "safe for re-entry."

Columbia had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods 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 return calls.

The Latest: At least 4 injured in fires blamed on gas issue

Reached by phone, some local officials described scenes of panic as residents rushed to evacuate, many wondering if their homes would be next to erupt in flames. In North Andover, town selectman Phil Decologero said his entire neighborhood had gathered in the street, afraid to enter their homes. Just a few streets down, he said, homes were burning.

NH firefighters help battle Mass. fires; evacuations announced in three towns | New Hampshire

Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts. At one, the upper portion of a brick chimney crushed an SUV parked in the driveway.

Soon after the first fires, Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante was warning residents in the Colonial Heights neighborhood to evacuate but said traffic had become a problem.

“People need to get out of this area safely,” he said at the time. “Its really difficult because the traffic right now is horrendous.”

Roaring blaze sparked by gas explosion destroys Lawrence police officers home

Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence when he responded to help. He said there are so many fires “you cant even see the sky.”

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles (40 kilometers) north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

18-year-old Leonel Rondon killed when chimney from house explosion fell on car in Lawrence

“Lawrence is a very resilient community. Were going to get through this together,” Mayor Dan Rivera told reporters as emergency lights illuminated smoke in the night sky nearby.

— A buildup of natural gas triggered an explosion and fire that killed seven people in apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2016.

— In 2014, a gas explosion in New York Citys East Harlem neighborhood killed eight people and injured about 50. Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the states Public Service Commission found Con Ed violated state safety regulations. A gas leak had been reported before that blast.

— A 2011 natural gas explosion killed five people in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that states largest gas utility was fined by regulators who called the companys safety record “downright alarming.”

Video: Boston explosions: homes burn after multiple gas blasts

— 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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