Thursday, a series of deadly gas explosions ravaged neighborhoods near Boston, The Washington Post reports. Countless homes were set on fire and evacuations were necessary for residents in the Massachusetts towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover as fires continued to wreak havoc. It was reported that one person died while 10 were hospitalized due to the dangerous flames. Even hours after the first events, officials did not determine it safe for people to return to their homes, sources say.
The cause of the fires is speculated to be from a series of gas supply upgrades being performed by Columbia Gas, causing overly pressurized natural gas in faulty gas lines. However, the exact cause has not been pinpointed as of yet. Columbia Gas had just notified residents of the area Thursday morning that such work would be taking place across the state in multiple neighborhoods. Apparently, the work being done was to improve the gas lines and improve “natural gas safety features.” Shortly after the announcement was made that morning, the Massachusetts State Police began receiving 60 to 100 reports of structure fires and explosions related to gas in these communities, The Washington Post reports.
“It looked like Armageddon,” said Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield.
LATEST: Evacuations are taking place in multiple neighborhoods north of Boston where residents have smelled gas, according to Massachusetts State Police.— ABC News (@ABC) September 13, 2018
Authorities confirmed fires and explosions at 39 locations: https://t.co/FLlKiNwVMO pic.twitter.com/HYPFyccL7K
CNN reported that the death of Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old, was caused by a chimney that had blown off a house in a gas explosion and landed on his car. Apparently, he was inside the car with two of his friends. He died later at the hospital.
In response to the sudden catastrophe, CNN says that first responders and gas technicians went door to door checking on the status of homes and their residents. They reportedly shut off gas mains at these houses, and soon, over 18,000 homes were left without power services. As of Thursday evening, it is reported that 8,000 residents were unable to return home due to safety precautions. Schools in the area would also be shut down Friday.
Experts are still trying to determine the exact cause of the explosions. Some have speculated that faulty pipelines could be the culprit. According to National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt, a full investigation of pipeline systems, Columbia Gas’s gas line work, and safety protocols are being fully investigated.
“[We will] look at the design of the pipeline system, any maintenance or upgrades being done or in process of being done on the pipeline. The integrity management system of the pipeline operator Columbia Gas. We’ll look at the emergency response, the system safety program of the pipeline operator,” Sumwalt said.
“Our mission is to find out what happened, so that we can learn from it and keep it from happening again.”