Emergency services in Massachusetts are responding to a series of gas explosions in the Lawrence area, damaging at least 39 buildings and possibly more, local officials say. Multiple people have been injured.
The incident began at about 5 p.m. ET on Thursday when dozens of buildings in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were hit by explosions. They were likely caused by over-pressured gas valves.
Emergency crews responded to at least 70 buildings, of which no less than 39 were hit by explosions, according to Massachusetts State Police. Footage from the area showed that some of the buildings had collapsed.
“At peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time. All fires have been extinguished,” the Town of Andover said in a statement at 7 p.m. It said at least 35 fires were reported in Andover alone.
Multiple people have been taken to hospital, but the exact number was not immediately known. Lawrence General Hospital said 6 victims were being treated there, 2 of them in critical condition.
Emergency services were overwhelmed by the explosions, which were upgraded to a 10-alarm fire. Footage shown on local TV showed that some buildings were burning without any firefighters at the scene.
“We are deploying all fire, police and EMS personnel to the scenes,” Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivers said. “Columbia Gas is also deploying all personnel to the scene to get to the bottom of it.”
Massachusetts State Police said residents in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover who have gas service from Columbia Gas should evacuate their homes immediately. “Gas lines are currently being de-pressurized by the company. It will take some time,” police said.
Electricity in the affected area was shut off on early Thursday evening to limit the risk of further explosions. “[The] fire threat is ongoing,” the Andover Police Department said in a tweet at 7 p.m.
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