‘It looked like Armageddon:’ Gas explosions destroy homes in Massachusetts

EPA-EFE  REX  Shutterstock Firefighters gain entrance into a house through a basement window to check the gas line in Lawrence Massachusetts USA 13 September 2018. A series of reported gas explosions in

CJ GUNTHER EPA Shutterstock Firefighters gained entrance into a house through a basement window to check the gas line in Lawrence on Thursday

Photos posted on social media show raging fires and thick plumes of black smoke billowing from the buildings.

His two friends remained hospitalized on Thursday night. Fire and utility crews were going door to door to conduct safety checks, officials said.

A man whose neighbourhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing. Not all gas had been shut off by Thursday evening and some of the lines were overpressurized, officials said.

"Firefighters literally were called to over 70 addresses in Lawrence, Andover, North Andover for reports of fires, explosions or gas odours".

Residents of the neighborhoods affected are being urged to stay away from their homes and instead use emergency shelters that are open in the communities.

"We are coordinating with our law enforcement partners as expected and personnel are on scene, as we normally would be in a situation like this to assess the situation", the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday before the fires broke out, the utility company that services the area announced it would be upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state. Red Cross reception centers were setup at the Andover Senior Center and Youth Center, North Andover High School, as well as Parthum and Arlington Schools in Lawrence.

Officials said it will be at least a day if not longer before many residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

In a statement, the FBI's Boston branch said they are investigating the explosions, but said: "There are no indications this incident is related to terrorism". No other information on a timeline or work required was immediately available from the company.

Residents who were evacuated "should expect that the restoration process will take several days or longer", Mr Andrew Maylor, the town manager of North Andover, said on Twitter.

Video footage from the scene shows firefighters working to try to put out the massive infernos, which appear to have fully engulfed numerous homes.

"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said. "It's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous".

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 40 kilometres north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says the issue appears to be in the southeast part of the city. "My first thought was this is a gas explosion".

Later, FOX station Boston 25 reported that more than 20 people had been injured. A gas leak had been reported before that blast.

Customers who smell the odor of gas are asked to leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911.

- In September 2010, a Pacific Gas and Electric gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

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