Panicked Neighborhoods Evacuate as Gas Blasts Destroy Homes

Teenager killed as 'gas explosions' set homes ablaze

An 18-year-old man died when a chimney fell on his vehicle, and another 10 people were injured in the fires and explosions, which affected the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on Thursday afternoon.

Leonel Rondon, from Lawrence, Mass., was sitting inside a auto when an explosion toppled a chimney that crashed into that vehicle, officials said.

"The administration urges residents to heed instructions from local officials for important public safety announcements, including evacuations and suspending gas usage", Baker said in a statement.

Columbia Gas, a unit of NiSource Inc, had announced earlier in the day that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions occurred.

Authorities identified the 18-year-old killed when a series of gas explosions rocked a string of Boston suburbs on Thursday. "At peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time", city police said.

The victims were taken to Lawrence General hospital and were treated for fire-related injuries.

During a Friday press conference at Reagan National Airport, Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that while the NTSB normally investigates incidents such as crashes, it is in charge of this situation because pipelines are a "mode of transportation" for natural gas.

At least one person has died and 12 people have been injured in the explosions.

State police said any residents of the area with Columbia Gas service to their house should "evacuate immediately".

More news: Hurricane Florence: Four reasons to fear this storm

"Good thing I wasn't home or I wouldn't be talking about it", she said outside an elementary school in Lawrence that the Red Cross had converted into a shelter for about 170 people.

State Police said Andover residents are evacuating to the senior center at 30 Whittier Court, North Andover is evacuating residents to the middle school 495 Main Street.

State officials said Columbia Gas was working to ease pressure on gas lines following the fires.

It is not clear whether maintenance work was happening at the time of the blasts.

State police are reporing 70 fires and gas explosions were reported today. "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.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he is in contact with first responders and is actively monitoring the situation. 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.

"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

"I have been in the fire service for nearly 39 years and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career", Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield said.

"If you smell gas, you gotta get out of your home", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told reporters.

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