Gas-related explosions set fire to homes near Boston

US At least 70 fires blasts reported in three towns of Boston mass evacuations under way

One person was killed and least 10 were injured Thursday after suspected gas line explosions rocked three communities north of Boston, causing dozens of homes to ignite.

The 18-year-old man, named Leonel Rondon, was inside a auto in Lawrence, Massachusetts, when a chimney fell on the vehicle, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman with the Essex County District Attorney's office, reported CNN.

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

Around the same time, State Police said electricity was being shut off for all residents in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, where some were still reporting an odour tied to natural gas. The Columbia Gas company had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened.

State police urged residents served by Columbia Gas to evacuate their homes, saying the utility was cutting pressure to its lines and that it would take "some time" to shut off all service.

Public schools in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover will be closed on Friday because of the fires.

"Everyone wants answers. And we deserve them", he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to help investigate the disaster in a state where some of the aging gas pipeline system dates to the 1860s...

In one neighbourhood of the affected area, police, firefighters and utility crews were going door-to-door, checking to make sure it was safe for residents to return home.

Gas technicians and first responders went door to door reviewing thousands of homes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover and shutting down gas mains.

Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said early Friday that the investigation into the cause of the explosions "is in its very preliminary stages".

"This has been an overwhelming event", Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael B. Mansfield told reporters.

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Meanwhile, there are fears that the number of fires may rise, as police say the reports keep coming in.

Investigators reportedly suspect that the explosions and fires were caused by a gas main owned by Columbia Gas of MA that was over-pressurized.

"Incidents are across a wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", Massachusetts State Police said on Twitter.

Rivera also issued a plea to undocumented immigrants in Lawrence, requesting that they stay in "the light".

It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not immediately comment.

"There could still be a gas leak in your home", he said.

"We have no information to provide on causation", Schwartz said.

In Lawrence, however, the entire south side of the city remained an evacuation zone as of 11 a.m. Friday.

Gas utilities have come under heightened scrutiny in recent years for an aging network of pipelines that critics say are not being properly inspected and maintained, posing a growing risk to public safety.

Officials again stressed that residents allowed back into their homes would still be without power and must not turn their gas back on themselves, but rather call Columbia Gas for an appointment.

The Republican governor says he realizes the situation is a "massive inconvenience" but asked for patience.

In nearby Methuen, which responded to the incidents, Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he thought about 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence.

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