Three neighbourhoods burst into flames after horror gas line explosion

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

"Our top priority is the safety of the public, our customers, and our employees, and while we are sending support teams, we continue to retain the resources we need to serve our customers", Akley said. Lawrence resident Ra Nam told WCVB that a boiler in his house caught fire. Students were waiting outside buildings for the gas to be shut off.

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon died when his auto was crushed by a falling chimney, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney's office said. Rondon was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Evacuations are now underway, forcing entire neighbourhoods to clear the area as crews scramble to douse the flames and shut off gas and electric lines in an attempt to prevent further damage. Hundreds spent the night in shelters, and school was cancelled as families waited to return to their homes.

"This has been an overwhelming event", Mansfield told reporters, saying that fire companies responding to blazes were putting one house fire out only to discover another house on fire as they finished their work.

"I respect the governor's judgement", Bryant said.

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, one of the affected towns, said of the company, "It just seemed like there's no one in charge, like they're in the weeds, and they've never seen this before".

People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke.

Authorities said all of the fires had been extinguished overnight and the situation was stabilizing. Gov. Charlie Baker said 8,000 customers' power was affected.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurized but also said investigators were still examining what happened.

According to a release from Columbia Gas, the company was upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, with a focus on enhanced safety features.

It is believed the explosions were caused by gas leaks.

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The streets were darkened after nightfall with power cut off to the area as a precaution.

Massachusetts State Police say troopers have been dispatched to the areas as panicked residents attempt to flee their neighbourhoods amid the afternoon rush hour.

How will I know when I can go home?

. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated". Just a few streets down, he said, homes were burning.

Some 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odour had been reported, Massachusetts State Police said.

In Lawrence, a man whose neighbourhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing.

It was not immediately clear whether those injured were different from the four victims with fire-related injuries taken to Lawrence General Hospital.

A gas explosion destroyed this home in Lawrence, Sept. 13, 2018.

Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts. Solomon, who responded to Lawrence to help, said there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

In the same news conference, Rivera blasted Columbia Gas for wasting time and not communicating to officials what caused the explosions and fires. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

Don't turn off gas to your house or to any appliances if you smell gas. State officials said Columbia Gas was working to ease pressure on gas lines following the fires.

In 2014, a gas explosion in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood killed eight people and injured about 50. A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return calls.

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