Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

1 dead, 10 injured in MA house fires after gas line issue

1 dead, 10 injured in MA house fires after gas line issue

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said it would likely take investigators some time to examine the pipeline's design, maintenance and upgrades.

Was anyone injured in the house explosions near Boston?

Firefighters raced for hours from one blaze to another and utility crews rushed to shut off gas and electricity to prevent further explosions. Gas remained shut off on Friday (Saturday NZT) in most of the area, and the streets were eerily deserted.

Authorities said Leonel Rondon died after a chimney toppled by an exploding house fell on his vehicle as blasts ripped through three neighbourhoods near Boston.

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

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield described the harrowing scene as, "Armageddon".

First-responders continued to fight at least 50 fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Asked about Baker's comments, NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen referred to statements from Columbia Gas President Steve Bryant, who spoke to reporters at a separate news conference after Baker's. Anyone in those towns who has gas service from Columbia Gas should leave their homes until further notice.

"We had more people than we had seats", he said.

The Columbia Gas company, a unit of NiSource Inc, had said earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions occurred, but it was not immediately clear whether any work was being done in those communities. A police officer directed him to North Andover's high school, where he slept on a cot.

Columbia Gas was sued in 2014 after a strip club was destroyed in a natural gas explosion two years earlier.

"Numerous evacuations of neighbourhoods where there are gas odours are underway", police said.

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"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".

She said she could see smoke rising from a structure on nearby Mount Vernon Street.

Power was shut off to all of Andover, Lawrence and North Andover.

A man whose neighbourhood was among those affected said he ran into his basement to find the room was glowing. Resident Ra Nam says he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off around 4.30pm.

When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out. Minutes later, Mr Nam said he heard a loud boom from his neighbour's house and the ground shook.

The injured are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital and two people are said to be in a critical condition.

A house at 85 Colonial Road in Lawrence was actively smoking as firefighters hosed it down just after 5 p.m.

Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky", while Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque said he's "never seen anything like this".

Authorities said an estimated 8,000 people were displaced at the height of Thursday's post-explosion chaos in three towns north of Boston rocked by the disaster. Lawrence, the largest, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

The former head of that agency, Brigham McCown, called the series of gas explosions "unprecedented, at least in recent memory".

Authorities in MA say a natural gas issue is to blame for at least 39 fires that erupted in homes across communities north of Boston. The blast levelled the Scores Gentleman's Club, injuring about 20 people and damaging dozens of other buildings.

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