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NTSB sending ‘go-team’ to investigate Merrimack Valley gas emergency

NTSB sending ‘go-team’ to investigate Merrimack Valley gas emergency

Authorities said an 18-year-old man has died after a house exploded amid gas explosions north of Boston, sending a chimney crashing into his vehicle.

It was not immediately clear whether those injured were different from the four victims with fire-related injuries taken to Lawrence General Hospital.

At least 100 buildings have been destroyed or severely damaged after explosions triggered fires in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts, close to the city of Boston.

Massachusetts State Police say gas lines are now being depressurized by the company.

"Residents in the affected towns of Lawrence/North Andover/Andover who have gas service from Columbia Gas should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so", state police tweeted.

The North Andover area is covered by Columbia Gas of MA, but its electric provider National Grid said electric crews were responding to assist.

"The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area", the utility company said in the statement.

The US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it was sending a team to support the state's emergency response efforts.

By later in the evening, gas meters had been shut off by Columbia Gas at about 8,600 meters, and residents were ordered to evacuate their homes. It was unclear how numerous fires and explosions were in homes or other locations.

"This incident is stabilized", said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz.

"It looked like Armageddon", Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters Thursday night, describing the fires as "an overwhelming event", adding that his crews would put one fire out and "find the next building on fire as well".




Columbia Gas of MA, a NiSource company, in an update posted to its website at 11:10 a.m. Friday, said, "What happened in the Merrimack Valley.was a tragic incident".

Massachusetts State Police said a total of 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odour had been reported.

The Mayor of Lawrence, Massachusetts, has said the explosions were caused by "over-pressured gas valves".

Guilfoil said six people in Andover were taken to hospitals by paramedics as a precaution because they had preexisting conditions.

With a backpack filled with personal items he had hastily grabbed, he said he'd head to his mother's home a few towns over for the night. "Once utilities secure the affected areas, we will work with the federal government to investigate how this occurred and hold people accountable for their actions".

Columbia Gas was been fined $100,000 by the state for a variety of safety violations since 2010, including $35,000 in 2016 for failing to follow company and pipeline safety regulations when responding to an outage and repairing a leak in Taunton.

"It was very scary", she said.

Lawrence resident Bruce Razin was among the evacuees standing outside the Colonial Heights neighbourhood near the city's high school trying to decide what to do next. More than 500 resources from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities are now mobilizing to provide assistance.

Flames consume a home in Boston after a suspected gas explosion.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon claimed there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

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