An 18-year-old man has died and at least 12 others were injured after dozens of gas explosions apparently triggered by over-pressurised gas line ignited 70 house fires.
An 18-year-old man was in a auto in Lawrence in a driveway when a house exploded, the chimney landed on the vehicle and the victim was pronounced dead.
"Numerous evacuations of neighbourhoods where there are gas orders are underway".
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. "It just went up, it sounded like we were being bombed", she said with her son Ryan outside the North Andover middle school where residents were evacuated.
The injured are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital and two people are said to be in a critical condition. Not all gas had been shut off by Thursday evening and some of the lines were overpressurized, officials said.
Scores of homes have been damaged in the inferno.
Officials rushed to shut off both gas and electricity service to several towns to prevent. "One patient has been transported to another hospital", the Lawrence hospital said in a Facebook post.
He says all residents should evacuate their homes if they smell gas.
Columbia Gasalso said it's working with officials to "investigate this incident in order to understand its cause". State police received between 60 and 100 reports of fires and gas explosions in the Merrimack region.
Massachusetts State Police told NBC News that at least 39 locations were affected by fires or explosions. No other information on a timeline or work required was immediately available from the company.
By 7:00pm local time, officials in Andover said all fires in the town had been extinguished.
Neighbouring Police Chief Joseph Solomon, who came in to assist from the town of Methuen, said there were so many fires burning at one point that you couldn't see the sky.
"It's definitely a scary situation at the moment", he said.
The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles (40 kilometres) north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.
"People need to get out of this area safely", he said at the time.
Fire investigators suspected "over-pressurization of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas of MA led to the series of explosions and fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said at a news conference.
Warren and Seaman said the last time they responded to MA for a major blaze was the Malden Mills factory fire in Lawrence in 1995. Anyone in those towns who has gas service from Columbia Gas should leave their homes until further notice.