MA gas-blast: Residents allowed home after fires and explosions

Lawrence MA-9/13/2018- Workers stage at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in Lawrence. Topic Reporter

Jessica Rinaldi Globe Staff Lawrence MA-9/13/2018- Workers stage at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in Lawrence. () Topic Reporter

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Friday in three towns north of Boston rocked by a string of deadly gas explosions, and he put another utility company in charge of restoration efforts.

A series of explosions and fires killed a teenager, injured dozens, damaged homes and forced thousands of people to be displaced. "There's oftentimes a tendency, when there are accidents like this, for a company to huddle down, to try to protect their shareholders when their one goal should be just to protect the people who they are serving".

The NTSB sent a team Friday to investigate what "appears to be multiple explosions involving (a) natural gas pipeline in the Merrimack Valley area of Massachusetts", Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

Crews have turned off almost 8,600 gas meters in the area.

"It looked like Armageddon, it really did", said Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael B. Mansfield.

Investigators suspected the fires were caused by "over-pressurisation of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas lines.

Leonel Rondon, 18, was killed inside a auto in the town of Lawrence when a chimney fell on his vehicle from a house explosion, a spokeswoman with the Essex County District Attorney's office said. He died at a hospital, authorities said.

Rivera also said all routes into and out of Lawrence are open.

"We are very interested to understand the operations of Columbia Gas".

The Red Cross reported Friday that about 400 people were staying in shelters.

Investigators expect to be on site up to ten days.

Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Red Cross, said Friday there were nearly 400 people shelters after the Thursday night explosions and fires.

Columbia Gas has had seven violations totaling $100,000 since 2010, according to an email from Peter Lorenz, communications director for Massachusetts's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Officials, meanwhile, are also warning about donations scammers.

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