World News

Natural gas issue blamed for at least 39 fires

Natural gas issue blamed for at least 39 fires

Firefighters raced for hours from one blaze to another and utility crews rushed to shut off gas and electricity to prevent further explosions on Thursday.

Officials were also shutting down power in the three towns, Massachusetts State Police said Thursday evening, which said there were at least 70 responses to fire, explosions and gas odor reports.

That occurred when a Columbia Gas technician called to investigate a gas odor at a nightclub accidentally punctured a line, the state Department of Public Utilities said in a report.

"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.

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. Minutes later, a loud boom came from his neighbor's home.

Michael Rivera, who escaped a house fire, said his city "looked like a war zone here".

A number of evacuation centres were set up for residents at local schools, which officials said would remain closed on Friday.

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

MSP said it was too early to know the cause of the explosions and fires. Razin said he arrived just as residents were being evacuated, and immediately saw the house two doors down was levelled from an explosion. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

The injured are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital and two people are said to be in a critical condition.

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A company spokesman said: "Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today".

Gas service was interrupted for 250 customers in Lawrence last month "due to hit line by a third party", according to Columbia Gas. Andover, North Andover and Lawrence projects were included. "What we need folks to do is that if it's happening in your home, you have a amusing smell, just evacuate, come out to the street", he said.

"It's definitely a scary situation at the moment", he said.

Video footage from the scene shows firefighters working to try to put out the massive infernos, which appear to have fully engulfed numerous homes.

Schools and senior citizen centres have been opened as gathering points for residents who fled their homes.

"People need to get out of this area safely", he said at the time.

Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, responded to Lawrence to help and said there are so many fires burning that "you can't even see the sky".

Residents and people working in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were urged to evacuate buildings or homes serviced by Columbia Gas after explosions and fires were reported.

Unitil, which serves parts of southern and Seacoast New Hampshire, said in a tweet it was "aware of the natural gas related fires in the Lawrence/Andover area".


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