Columbia Gas Explosions Damage Dozens of Homes, Resulting in Widespread Evacuation in Massachusetts

A series of gas explosions ripped through communities north of Boston Thursday, killing at least one, hospitalizing 10 others and destroying dozens of homes serviced by Columbia Gas lines. 

The explosions began late Thursday afternoon, with some estimates indicating that there were at least 60 to 70 natural gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts. The one known fatality, involving Leonel Rondon, occurred when the man was killed after a chimney fell onto his vehicle.

The blasts have been linked to Columbia Gas, a local utility. Just before the explosions began, Columbia Gas issued a press release stating that it would be upgrading natural gas lines in the area.

Investigators now say that the gas lines somehow became over pressurized; a situation which worsened when some gas lines were shut off as the explosions began. The blasts resulted in a widespread shutdown of power in the area, and an evacuation of South Lawrence that impacted at least 8,000 residents.

Columbia Gas later issued another press release detailing its response to the explosions and what residents in the affected area, the Merrimack Valley, should do.

“As part of response efforts, Columbia Gas crews need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection,” the press release states. “Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities who are currently mobilizing to provide assistance.”

The company noted, however, that this will be an extended restoration effort that will likely take some time.

State offices in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were closed on Friday, state officials announced.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to send a team to investigate today. It is unclear when residents will be able to return to their homes or state offices in those areas will reopen.

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