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Massachusetts suspected gas explosions damage or destroy at least 20 homes, officials say

FOX News logo FOX News 14-09-2018 Nicole Darrah

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At least four people were injured in Massachusetts on Thursday night after a series of gas explosions tore through several communities outside of Boston, officials said.

Preliminary numbers estimate that between 60 to 100 homes in the Merrimack Valley caught fire in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Methuen Police Chief Joseph Soloman said.

State Police (MSP) confirmed on Twitter that at least 70 locations were affected by fires, explosions and "investigations of gas odour."

Residents in the aforementioned towns that are serviced by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts "should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so", police advised. Gas service was shut down by the company to roughly 8,000 customers.

"Numerous evacuations of neighbourhoods where there are gas odours are underway," MSP tweeted. Columbia Gas was working to depressurise its gas lines, which "will take some time," while National Grid cut electricity to the three towns "to limit spark-started fires."

Solomon — who noted there were no fires in Methuen but the town's first responders aided areas in need — said that in Lawrence alone, there were roughly 20 to 25 homes on fire. He said there were so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

In the town of Andover, firefighters responded to 35 fires total — all of which have been extinguished. "At peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time," city police said.

a building on fire © Provided by Fox News Network LLC Local officials said at least one firefighter and two civilians were injured in the "gas-related fires".

The North Andover Police Department advised residents with gas service in their homes or businesses to "please exit the building until further notice".

Some residents were evacuated from their homes to senior centres and schools as officials investigated the situation, police said.

Merrimack College, which is located in North Andover, advised that "in an over abundance of caution", students and faculty needed to evacuate all buildings on campus, but later said all buildings were "safe for re-entry".

Governor Charlie Baker's office said the governor is "actively monitoring the situations in the Merrimack Valley and is communicating with first responders and public safety officials".

The Columbia Gas company announced earlier on 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 on Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not immediately comment.

Fox News' Andrew Fone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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