Gas explosions: Gov. declares state of emergency, police avert 'catastrophic event'

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Teams - each with a police officer, a firefighter and a gas technician - are going door-to-door in the affected area, Smith says, checking on thousands of houses.

At about 11 p.m. ET Thursday, troopers in helicopter MSP Air 5 of the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing "were working over Lawrence, providing overwatch support during the ongoing response after the gas explosions and fires", officials said.

Fire and smoke billowing out of a home in Boston, in the U.S. state of MA.

Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, was killed after a house explosion sent a chimney falling onto his auto, according to the Essex District Attorney's Office.

"Mr. Rondon was inside a vehicle near 35 Chickering Rd in Lawrence when a chimney from a house explosion fell on the auto", the district attorney's office said.

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

"There are multiple basement fires in Andover".

Tran said when he opened his door to see what had happened, all he could see was smoke.

People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke.

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Gov. Charlie Baker said state and local authorities were investigating but it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers, acknowledging the "massive inconvenience" for those displaced by the explosions. "National Grid's gas system is operating normally and is not impacted by the situation in the Merrimack Valley". "I respect the governor's judgment; the governor has the same interest as we do, we want to restore service to these customers".

Chief Michael Mansfield requested through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, two additional fire task forces to respond to Andover.

Investigators reportedly suspect that the explosions and fires were caused by a gas main owned by Columbia Gas of MA that was over-pressurized. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday.

Firefighters are at the scene extinguishing a gas explosion in the US.

Police are on patrol in Lawrence tonight after power was cut off until officials can determine if the city is safe.

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles (40 kilometres) north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.

"Columbia Gas has not said what went wrong", Thys reported Friday. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

Around 400 people made use of five shelters spread throughout the area Thursday night, said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, during a press conference just after 10 a.m. Friday.

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said residents won't be allowed to return home until crews inspect every home and make sure there are no more gas leaks. Before the explosions, Columbia Gas had said it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs.

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When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out.

Minutes later, he said he heard a loud booming sound from his neighbor's house.

At least 30 homes and businesses caught fire in Andover, and active fires were reported in Lawrence as of early Friday morning, several hours after initial reports surfaced, fire officials said.

Firefighters battle a house fire in Boston.

Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts.

Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

Also sending utility personnel to help with restoring service was Norwich Public Utilities (NPU), which general manager John Bilda said was "ready and willing to respond to this unprecedented event in MA, sending a number of our talented personnel to assist with this critical work". Lawrence, the largest, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

"We don't know what caused the explosion or what the ramifications will ultimately be", Genscape Inc. natural gas analyst Eric Fell told NGI. All three towns were listed as areas where neighborhood lines would be replaced, the utility said on its website Thursday. Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the state's Public Service Commission found Con Ed violated state safety regulations.

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