MA explosions damage so many homes 'you can’t even see the sky'

Geraldine Edwards
September 15, 2018

Among those who tried to pry answers from the company was Congressman Seth Moulton, who says even he couldn't get them to return his calls.

As pressure mounted Friday for gas company officials to provide answers about what happened, Sens.

When I wrote about this story Thursday afternoon, at least 70 homes had exploded and/or caught fire in the area of Lawrence, Massachusetts and authorities were scrambling to put out the fires and also to evacuate the area.

"People have a right to know", Markey told reporters.

He described the community as "very resilient" but warned people to make alternative arrangements until they are told it is safe to return.

"We are not sure that's going to be anytime soon".

NiSource is the parent company of Columbia Gas of MA, which services three communities where a series of fires and explosions killed a teenager and injured more than two dozen others on Thursday. It crashed into a nearby auto, fatally wounding a teenager who was inside.

He says about 400 people spent the night in emergency shelters and no additional natural gas-related emergencies have been reported Friday.

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The utility said it was "working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this incident in order to understand its cause". Minutes later, a loud boom came from his neighbor's home. Three people rushed out.

Two people, including a firefighter, sustained non-life-threatening injuries, said town spokesman John Guilfoil.

"This has been an overwhelming event", Mansfield said.

"I've been in the fire service for nearly 39 years and I've never seen anything like this in my entire career". With gas shut off to homes and electricity cut to that portion of the city, residents were told to seek shelter elsewhere as emergency crews raced across the city responding to new calls.

Officials were also shutting down power in the three towns, state police said on Thursday evening.

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

The mayor of Lawrence requested that all those living in the southern zone of his town leave their homes ahead of the planned power shutdown. The State Police Fusion Center said the gas explosions and reports were "spread across a wide swath" of South Lawrence, North Andover and in North Lawrence. Gas remained shut off on Friday (Saturday NZT) in most of the area, and the streets were eerily deserted.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to MA to investigate a series of gas explosions blamed for one death and dozens of fires.

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"Certainly things we will be looking at will be the design of the pipeline system, any maintenance or upgrades that may have been done or in the process of being done on the pipeline, the integrity management system of the pipeline operator", he said.

"Our mission is to find out what happened, so that we can learn from it and keep it from happening again", he said.

Information about the full extent of the damage was not immediately available Thursday evening, and authorities cautioned that it was "far too early to speculate" on the cause of the explosions.

Columbia had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. "We will support you and your family", Rivera said at a news conference Friday, speaking in English and Spanish. Andover, North Andover and Lawrence projects were included.

Gas service was interrupted for 250 customers in Lawrence last month because of a line hit by a third party, according to the company.

State Police estimated up to 38 homes were destroyed by the explosions and fires.

"The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area", the utility company said in the statement.

Columbia Gas of MA, the NiSource unit responsible for the local network, said in a statement that its crews would need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and carry out a safety inspection.

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