Teen killed by falling chimney during MA gas explosions

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

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

The town of 35,000 residents is about 26 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire border.

Columbia Gas is investigating, NISource spokesman Ken Stammen said on Thursday. "We are saddened to learn of the death of a young man as a result of these events", the statement read. "Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident". "We have had similar issues on a much smaller scale". We are grateful for the community's patience, as well as the tremendous support we have received from our first responder and law enforcement partners.

Columbia Gas President Steve Bryant later defended the company's performance, saying the utility had remained in constant touch with state and federal officials.

Local media say the first of a series of explosions was triggered by an overpressurised gas line. Columbia Gas noted that it would be "an extended restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers".

28 and Salem Street were allowed to return home early Friday • Power shut off to South Lawrence, parts of Andover and North Andover.

While the cause of the terrifying explosions remains unclear, town officials in Andover are advising all residents and businesses to evacuate and to shut off their gas, if they know how to safely.

The Massachusetts natural gas distribution system is one of the oldest in the United States, with the age of some of the piping more than a century old, according to utility company disclosures with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon died when his auto was crushed by a falling chimney, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney's office said.

State police now puts the tally of fires and explosions at 70, up from the 39 initially reported, with the number expected to grow.

Firefighters battle a large structure fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield described the harrowing scene as, "Armageddon".

Bruce Razin, who was among the evacuees and saw a neighbours house destroyed said: "I couldn't imagine if that was my house".

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said staff members were heading to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, along with state fire investigators. More than 50 fire vehicles and 10 ambulances responded. A gas leak had been reported before that blast.

Almost 20 hours after the emergency began, Columbia Gas had still not addressed the public.

Anderson said the hospital regularly trains for these kinds of situations.

Columbia Gas, a unit of the utility giant NiSource Inc, announced earlier on Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions occurred.

Columbia Gas, which has 313,000 customers across the state, says an investigation is underway as the utility works to cut gas supply.

Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate Thursday afternoon, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.

Tactical flight officer and Trooper Eric Fairchild was monitoring the aircraft's forward looking infrared camera "when he observed an anomaly under the pavement at the intersection of Broadway and Andover St".

In the town of Andover, firefighters responded to 38 fires total - all of which have been extinguished. "This is the sort of thing that a gas distribution company hopes never happens".

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