In­ves­ti­ga­tion into se­ries of fa­tal nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sions

United States: Bid to pin­point cause of blasts that left one teenager dead

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - WORLD NEWS -

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are try­ing to pin­point the cause of a se­ries of nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sions that killed a US teenager and in­jured at least 10 oth­ers.

Au­thor­i­ties said an es­ti­mated 8,000 peo­ple had to leave their homes at the height of the chaos in three towns north of Bos­ton.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board was send­ing a team to investigate, say­ing pipe­lines are within its ju­ris­dic­tion.

The rapid-fire se­ries of gas ex­plo­sions that one of­fi­cial de­scribed as “Ar­maged­don” ig­nited fires in at least 39 homes in Lawrence, An­dover and North Ando-

“I could see pil­lars of smoke in front of me from the town of An­dover”

ver, forc­ing en­tire neigh­bour­hoods to evac­u­ate as fire crews scram­bled to fight the flames and shut off gas and elec­tric­ity.

Gas re­mained shut off yes­ter­day in most of the area, and the streets were eerily de­serted.

Leonel Ron­don, 18, died af­ter a chim­ney crashed into his car.

Mas­sachusetts State Po­lice urged all res­i­dents with homes ser­viced by Columbia Gas in the three com­mu­ni­ties to evac­u­ate, snarling traf­fic and caus­ing wide­spread con­fu­sion as res­i­dents and lo­cal of­fi­cials strug­gled to un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing.

Hun­dreds spent the night in shel­ters, and school was can­celled yes­ter­day as fam­i­lies waited to re­turn to their homes.

“I t l o o k e d l i k e Ar­maged­don,” An­dover fire chief Michael Mans­field said. “There were bil­lows of smoke com­ing from Lawrence be­hind me. I could see pil­lars of smoke in front of me from the town of An­dover.”

Gover­nor Char­lie Baker said state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties were in­ves­ti­gat­ing but that it could take days or weeks be­fore they turn up an­swers.

The util­ity com­pany 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.

“We ex­pect this will be an ex­tended restora­tion ef­fort, and we will work tire­lessly to re­store ser­vice to the af­fected cus­tomers,” the state­ment said.

The Mas­sachusetts Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency blamed the fires on gas pipes that had be­come over-pres­surised but said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were still ex­am­in­ing what hap­pened.

Columbia had said ear­lier on Thurs­day that it would be up­grad­ing gas pipes in neigh­bour­hoods across the state, in­clud­ing the area where the ex­plo­sions hap­pened.

It was not clear whether work was hap­pen­ing there on Thurs­day when the blasts hap­pened.

EVAC­U­A­TION: Firefighters bat­tle a house fire on Her­rick Road in North An­dover, af­ter the rapid-fire gas ex­plo­sions across the district

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