Ex­plo­sions set fire to neigh­bour­hoods

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS -

LAWRENCE, Mass. — A se­ries of gas ex­plo­sions caused fires at more than 20 homes across three com­mu­ni­ties north of Boston, Mass., on Thurs­day, forc­ing en­tire neigh­bour­hoods to evac­u­ate as crews scram­ble to douse the flames and shut off gas and elec­tric lines in an at­tempt to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age.

Mas­sachusetts State Po­lice say troop­ers have been dis­patched to Lawrence, An­dover and North An­dover to se­cure scenes and help traf­fic that has snarled roads as pan­icked res­i­dents at­tempt to flee their neigh­bour­hoods amid the af­ter­noon rush hour.

Joseph Solomon, the po­lice chief in nearby Methuen, said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence. Solomon, who re­sponded to Lawrence to help, said there are so many fires “you can’t even see the sky.”

The cause wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear. The Columbia Gas com­pany had an­nounced ear­lier Thurs­day that it would be up­grad­ing gas lines in neigh­bour­hoods across the state, in­clud­ing the area where the ex­plo­sions hap­pened. It was not clear whether work was hap­pen­ing there Thurs­day, and a spokes­woman did not im­me­di­ately com­ment.

Town of­fi­cials in An­dover are ad­vis­ing all res­i­dents and busi­nesses to evac­u­ate and to shut off their gas, if they know how to safely. The town of 35,000 res­i­dents is about 40 km north of Boston near the New Hamp­shire border.

In neigh­bour­ing North An­dover, town Select­man Phil De­cologero said that his en­tire neigh­bour­hood had gath­ered in the street, afraid to en­ter homes. He warned any­one with con­cerns to leave their houses and head to North An­dover High School, which is be­ing set up as a gath­er­ing point.

“It’s def­i­nitely a scary sit­u­a­tion at the mo­ment,” he said. “It’s pretty se­vere.”

En­tire neigh­bour­hoods were be­ing evac­u­ated in Lawrence. City Coun­cilor Marc La­plante said au­thor­i­ties were shut­ting off elec­tric power and urg­ing res­i­dents in the Colo­nial Heights neigh­bour­hood to head to Parthum ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools.

“Peo­ple need to get out of this area safely, and it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult be­cause the traf­fic right now is hor­ren­dous,” he said.

The Mas­sachusetts Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency said staff mem­bers were head­ing to Lawrence, An­dover and North An­dover, along with state fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The as­so­ciat ed press

Flames con­sume the roof of a home in Lawrence, Mass., on Thurs­day af­ter a se­ries of gas ex­plo­sions that have dam­aged homes in three com­mu­ni­ties.

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