Lawrence, MA – A series of explosions rocked several communities in Merrimack Valley, killing a teenager, injuring at least 25 other people and ignited fires in at least 39 homes in three communities north of Boston.
The blasts forced entire neighborhoods to evacuate as crews battled to fight the flames and shut off the gas.
Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover to evacuate.
Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal’s office said that over-pressurization of a gas main owned by Columbia Gas, which had been upgrading equipment in the area, was likely the cause of the explosions.
MA Governor, Charlie Baker, has declared a state of emergency for the state to take over recovery efforts.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), reported there were 60-80 fires and 3 explosions.
The Washington Post reported that “people in undamaged homes with working utilities piled suitcases, bikes, and pets into vehicles, on their way to stay anywhere else with family and friends. The smell of smoke was pervasive for miles.”
In a statement on its website, Columbia Gas of Massachusettes stated:
“What happened in the Merrimack Valley yesterday was a tragic incident. We are saddened to learn of the death of a young man as a result of these events. Our thoughts and continued support are with those who have been injured and affected. We are focused on providing as much support as possible to our customers, residents, and communities.”
The utility company added, “We are grateful for the community’s patience, as well as the tremendous support we have received from our first responder and law enforcement partners. As part of response efforts, Columbia Gas crews need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection. More than 500 resources from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities are currently mobilizing to provide assistance.”