Massachusetts: Gas Explosions Set Several Structures on Fire, Mass Evacuation Underway
Representational picture. (Photo: Twitter, KaloyanPargov)

Massachusetts, Sep 14: Hundreds of people were asked to evacuate from towns in Massachusetts state of the US after suspected gas explosions that set several buildings and business houses on fire. According to Massachusetts state police, at least 23 explosions and subsequent fires had occurred at a number of different addresses in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. Local media, however, said the number of blasts was higher.

The incident began about 5 pm (local times) when several explosions occurred in buildings in the three towns in Massachusetts state. At least ten people were injured, one critically in the incident. The state police said they had responded to 70 reports of fires, explosions and the smell of gas in a widespread zone encompassing the east coast towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Following the incident, Lawrence town Mayor Dan Rivera asked all residents of South Lawrence to evacuate. The reason for the blasts, so far, is unknown, Efe reported. "There are multiple basement fires in Andover. It's some kind of gas issue," Andover Police Department spokesman Lt. Edward Guy said. "We urge residents if they are smelling gas to get out of the house and contact 911. We will get units out there," he added.

The state police asked residents in the affected towns of Lawrence/North Andover/Andover who have gas service from Columbia Gas to evacuate their homes immediately. The company is currently depressurising gas lines, and it will take some time, the police added.

The fires were attributed to possible problems with the natural gas system, and security forces urged residents to leave their homes immediately if they smell gas or suspect that they could catch fire. Local media reported that local fire chief Michael Mansfield said that between 25 and 30 active fires were being battled in Andover and at least 18 more in Lawrence.