Gas blasts hit homes near Boston

A picture taken from a video shows flames rising from a home after a gas explosion in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. (AP)

By Reuters
  • Published 15.09.18
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A picture taken from a video shows flames rising from a home after a gas explosion in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. (AP)

Andover, Massachusetts: Some 8,000 people were prevented from returning home in Boston suburbs on Friday as investigators scrambled to find out the cause of dozens of gas explosions that killed at least one person and injured about 12 more.

The blasts on Thursday destroyed scores of homes and other buildings in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, left more than 18,000 homes and businesses without power and forced thousands of people from their homes.

Investigators suspected "over-pressurisation of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts led to the series of explosions and fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said on Thursday. Massachusetts State Police said around 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odour had been reported.

"This has been obviously an incredibly difficult day," Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker said in a news conference early on Friday. Those driven from their homes "should expect that the restoration process will take several days or longer".

Andrew Maylor, the town manager of North Andover, said on Twitter.

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said it would likely take investigators some time to examine the pipeline's design, maintenance and upgrades. "The truth of the matter is we really don't have any factual information at this point to confirm," Sumwalt said on Friday.

Columbia Gas, a unit of utility NiSource Inc, is investigating, NISource spokesman Ken Stammen said on Thursday. Before the explosions, Columbia Gas had said it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs. NiSource shares fell more than 9 per cent on Friday morning.

Firefighters raced for hours from one blaze to another and utility crews rushed to shut off gas and electricity to prevent further explosions on Thursday. Fire and utility crews were still going door to door on Friday to conduct safety checks and shut off gas meters, officials said.