70 fires, explosions reported in US, three towns asked to evacuate

Authorities were to cut power to thousands of meters, police said, and residents in all three towns with utilities service from Columbia Gas had been asked to evacuate immediately.

Published: 14th September 2018 08:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2018 08:20 AM   |  A+A-

In this image take from video provided by WCVB in Boston, flames consume the roof of a home in Lawrence, Mass, a suburb of Boston, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Emergency crews are responding to what they believe is a series of gas explosions that have damaged homes across three communities north of Boston. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

NEW YORK: Mass evacuations from US towns north of Boston were underway Thursday after dozens of fires and suspected gas explosions erupted, police said, leaving at least 10 residents injured, one critically.

Massachusetts State Police said they had responded to 70 reports of fires, explosions and the smell of gas in a widespread zone encompassing the east coast towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

"Gas lines are currently being depressurized," police tweeted, adding that "it will take some time."

"Numerous evacuations of neighbourhoods where there are gas odours are underway," police said. "Far too early to speculate on the cause. A joint investigation will be conducted when the situation is stabilized."

People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke from a fire on Bowdoin Street in Lawrence, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. The company that owns Columbia Gas says its crews are performing safety checks after a series of fires and explosions erupted in three communities north of Boston.

Authorities were to cut power to thousands of meters, police said, and residents in all three towns with utilities service from Columbia Gas had been asked to evacuate immediately.

In a release dated Thursday the company had said it would "be upgrading natural gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state."

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.

Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating 10 patients injured in the gas explosions, one in critical condition and another in serious condition.

Firefighters battle a house fire, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, on Herrick Road in North Andover, Massachusetts, one of the multiple emergency crews responding to a series of gas explosions and fires triggered by a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in several communities north of Boston. 

"Cases range from smoke inhalation to traumatic blast injuries," the hospital said, adding that one patient had been taken to another hospital. Red Cross centres were open to shelter evacuees while Lawrence-area schools were to shutter Friday.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was to head to the scene Friday morning, the federal agency tweeted.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement he was "actively monitoring the situation," urging residents to heed instructions from local officials.

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