Massachusetts Gas Utility Expects Extended Restoration Effort

EPA-EFE  REX  Shutterstock Firefighters gain entrance into a house through a basement window to check the gas line in Lawrence Massachusetts USA 13 September 2018. A series of reported gas explosions in

Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted that he's urging residents to follow instructions from local officials about evacuations and to suspend their gas usage.

Authorities said nothing to indicate any foul play was suspected.

Gas service had been interrupted for 250 customers in Lawrence last month due to a "hit line by a third party", according to Columbia Gas.

Authorities say an 18-year-old man has died after a house exploded amid gas explosions north of Boston, sending a chimney crashing into his auto.

MSP said it was too early to know the cause of the explosions and fires.

State Police say they have confirmed fires at 39 locations but warn the number will grow.

Firefighters battle a large structure fire after residents fled in panic. "I've never seen anything like this". About 50 fire departments responded to the emergency, said John McArdle, fire chief of Plaistow, New Hampshire, which sent a tower ladder and engine crew to the scene.

"You can't even see the sky", Solomon said. He says he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out.

At 5:01 p.m., Andover Fire-Rescue Department struck a 10-alarm response, its maximum traditional fire response.

"Please do not enter your house unless you are accompanied by a gas company representative", the statement emphasized.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who also criticized Columbia for what he said was an inadequate response to the crisis, and Sen.

Columbia Gas CEO Steve Bryant said the company was "sorry" and "deeply concerned about the inconvenience", adding that he has no reason to take action against any employee at this point.

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The state Registry of Motor Vehicles said Rondon had been issued his driver's license only hours earlier Thursday.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said the state's mutual aid fire mobilization plan has been activated and that it was sending staff to the three towns, as well as four structural task forces.

Columbia Gas, which has 313,000 customers across the state, says an investigation is underway as the utility works to cut gas supply. "We will support you and your family", Rivera said at a news conference Friday, speaking in English and Spanish.

The explosions were reported in the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover north of Boston on Thursday afternoon.

Trooper Eric Fairchild, the tactical flight officer on the mission, was looking at the monitor for the helicopter's Forward Looking InfraRed camera system when "he observed an anomaly under the pavement" at the intersection of South Broadway and Andover Street, police said. It's unclear whether that incident was related to Thursday's fire and explosions.

The helicopter crew "likely prevented another catastrophic event", State Police said.

The mayor of Lawrence additionally requested that all those living in the southern zone of his town leave their homes ahead of the planned power shutdown. "Safety is our top priority", it said.

"Our thoughts are with the community and everyone impacted by yesterday's tragic incident".

Authorities late Friday had not said when residents would be allowed to return to their homes.

Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the U.S.in recent years. "It's terrible for the people affected, but a pretty small impact in terms of the gas market".

As the sun rose Friday, residents looked over damaged homes that were either blasted by explosions or consumed by flames.

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