Gas Explosions and Fires Reported in Several Massachusetts Cities [UPDATING]

Photo: Mary Schwalm AP

Update, 9:00 pm ET: Journalist Luke O’Neil points out that Massachusetts police, in tweeting about the fires, inadvertently posted a screenshot of their bookmarks, including activist organizations they seem to be tracking, including MA Action Against Police Brutality and Resistance Calendar. They’ve now deleted the tweet, but the original text remains below.

Update, 8:16 pm: Reports now say that there are 60 to 100 fires in the suburbs affected, and at least four injuries.

WPRI describes some of the scenes in Lawrence, MA:

A man whose neighborhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing. Lawrence resident Ra Nam says he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out. Minutes later, Nam said he heard a loud boom from his neighbor’s house and the ground shook. Nam said a woman and two kids had made it out of the house but the basement was on fire.

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Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said that the explosions are the result of gas lines that became over-pressurized, according to WPRI, but officials are still investigating.

According to nearby Methuen police chief Joseph Solomon, there are so many houses on fire in Lawrence that “you can’t even see the sky.”

Original story continues below:

Police are responding to gas explosions and fires across at least 17 buildings in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, MA this evening. The explosions in the northeastern part of the state have forced evacuations and spread fires across blocks. The locations with explosions include a middle school and senior center. State police said on Twitter that those affected were customers of Columbia Gas, and any other customers should evacuate their homes immediately.

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Columbia Gas was depressurizing their lines, according to CNN. Some neighborhoods where the smell of gas was present were being evacuated.

It’s “far too early to speculate on cause” of the explosions, authorities said, according to CNN.

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This story is developing and will be updated when more information becomes available.

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