Friday, 16 November, 2018

Teen dead as gas explosions rock U.S. towns

Teenager killed as 'gas explosions' set homes ablaze Nearly 40 fires and explosions erupt in Massachusetts
Kenny Thornton | 15 September, 2018, 02:49

A series of gas explosions Thursday caused fires at more than 70 homes in the Merrimack Valley region of MA.

Don't light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including home phones or cell phones, lights, appliances, flashlights, power tools, and the like.

Columbia Gas, which has 313,000 customers across the state, says an investigation is underway as the utility works to cut gas supply.

Officials said that between 60 and 80 fires and a number of explosions broke out in homes and businesses in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, which are located around 30 miles (45km) north of Boston.

As many as 33,000 people in the towns of Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover were urged to "evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so", though it is not yet known the exact total of people who evacuated.

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon died when his vehicle was crushed by a falling chimney, a spokesperson for the Essex County District Attorney's office said. He was rushed to a Boston hospital but pronounced dead there in the evening.

The teen, who recently got his driver's license, was sitting inside the auto with two friends when the blast happened, loved ones told WHDH.

The residents of the three communities north of Boston, serviced by Columbia Gas, have been ordered to evacuate after a reported gas line rupture triggered a series of violent explosions.

Shelters for those displaced would remain open in the three communities, the officials said.

Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the USA in recent years.

A fire engine is seen near a building emitting smoke after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, US, September 13, 2018. The blast leveled the Scores Gentleman's Club, injuring about 20 people and damaging dozens of other buildings. Recent deliveries to the local distribution company from Tennessee Gas Pipeline "have been around 10,000 MMBtu, or 0.01 Bcf/d".

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Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque toldThe Eagle-Tribune, which covers the Merrimack Valley, that he'd "never seen anything like this".

Fuegge, 58, called the situation "confusing more than frightening".

Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said, "How long is it going to take?" Electric power was also turned off.

The three communities, near the New Hampshire border, together have more than 146,000 residents.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says the issue appears to be in the southeast part of the city.

"Do not be afraid".

"It looked like Armageddon, it really did", said Michael Mansfield, Andover fire chief.

"People have a right to know", Markey told reporters. "I have been in the fire service for nearly 39 years and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career". Hours before the explosions, the company had unveiled plans to upgrade gas lines across MA, including in the areas where the blasts happened. It was not clear whether work was happening there, and a spokeswoman did not return calls.

Aerial footage showed firefighters tackling blazes at several properties.

Earlier Friday, Columbia Gas said in a statement its "crews need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection". It's unclear whether that incident was related to Thursday's fire and explosions.

Brenda Charest stood anxiously on her front porch while a crew checked her undamaged home before giving her the all-clear to return Friday. Minutes later, a loud boom came from his neighbor's home.

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