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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Multiple injuries in dozens of gas blasts near Boston 

The explosions are thought to have been caused by a rupture in a gas pipeline.

A series of reported gas explosions in towns north of Boston Massachusetts set homes ablaze and forced mandatory evacuation for residents. EPA
A series of reported gas explosions in towns north of Boston Massachusetts set homes ablaze and forced mandatory evacuation for residents. EPA

At least six people were injured and hundreds were ordered to evacuate their homes following a series of explosions that rocked three communities near Boston on Thursday, apparently triggered by a gas pipeline rupture, local officials said.

Live TV images showed firefighters battling blazes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, around 25 miles north of the US city. The streets were darkened where authorities had cut off electricity and were shutting down gas service in an effort to stop further blazes.

Massachusetts State Police said a total of 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odour had been reported.

A Boston Fire Department truck crew patrols for signs of gas leaks or fires in Lawrence, Massachusetts. EPA
A Boston Fire Department truck crew patrols for signs of gas leaks or fires in Lawrence, Massachusetts. EPA

Authorities said nothing to indicate any foul play was suspected. The first explosion was triggered by an overpressurized gas line, Boston's WBZ News reported.

North Andover resident Laurie Williams, 55, said she drove home from work to find police and fire vehicles blocking streets near her home, and learned three buildings nearby were on fire.

"It was very scary," Williams said, with smoke visible on the skyline. "My first thought was this is a gas explosion."

The Columbia Gas company had said earlier on Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions occurred, but it was not immediately clear whether any work was being done in those communities.

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"Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today," said Ken Stammen, a spokesman for NiSource.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said it was dispatching a team to support the state's emergency response efforts, an agency spokesperson said on Thursday.

Local media outlets' Twitter feeds were filled with images of homes in flames or collapsed.

State police urged residents served by Columbia Gas to evacuate their homes, saying the utility was cutting pressure to its lines and that it would take "some time" to shut off all service.

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