An 18-year-old Lawrence man, Leonel Rondon, died when one explosion knocked over a chimney that fell on his auto, a spokesman at Massachusetts General Hospital said. (Mary Schwalm/AP) Bruce Razin, 59, talks to his family on his cell phone outside his evacuated neighborhood Thursday in Lawrence.
Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were included Thursday morning in an alert from Columbia Gas of MA telling customers on its website that it was "upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods" across the state. "It just went up, it sounded like we were being bombed", she said with her son Ryan outside the North Andover middle school where residents were evacuated.
Dozens of homes were reported to have caught fire in several northern MA towns on Thursday after a series of suspected gas explosions. "At peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time", city police said.
Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating four people with injuries related to the fires, but it did not provide details about their condition.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated, with gas and electricity services cut to try and prevent further incidents. Photos posted on social media show raging fires and thick plumes of black smoke billowing from the buildings.
A number of evacuation centres were set up for residents at local schools, which officials said would remain closed on Friday.
Baker previously said authorities hadn't heard directly from Columbia Gas, but later called the company's response "adequate".
"Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today", NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen said.
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The National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.
It is not clear whether maintenance work was happening at the time of the blasts.
Police said they were dealing with explosions or fires in 39 locations. "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 really scary", she said.
"There is no expectation people will be able to get into their houses this evening", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said at a news conference.
Gas technicians and first responders were going door-to-door reviewing thousands of homes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover and shutting down gas mains.
Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky". The town of 35,000 residents is about 26 miles (40 kilometers) north of Boston near the New Hampshire border.
Warren and Seaman said the last time they responded to MA for a major blaze was the Malden Mills factory fire in Lawrence in 1995.
Early Friday, the utility issued a statement saying its crews need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said staff members were heading to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, along with state fire investigators.