Residents allowed to return to homes after gas explosions

Cheryl Sanders
September 17, 2018

Residents of three areas hit by a series of fires and gas explosions north of Boston in MA have started to return home, officials say.

Gov. Charlie Baker of MA tweeted Sunday that police, firefighters and utility crews had "safely cleared" of gas thousands of homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

At least one person died and others were injured in the blasts in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence on Thursday. "We will be looking at their record keeping, their procedural compliance, their procedures, their training, the oversight of their contractors", Sumwalt said, adding that he expects his agency expects to remain in the area through the week, if not longer.

There is no evidence that anything nefarious contributed to the fires, Sumwalt said.

A full report on the exact cause may not be complete for up to two years, he said.

CreditSights Inc. analysts said Friday in a note that the MA incident "appears to have been caused by the utility working on the gas lines immediately before the explosions occurred".

Gas mains were shut down in the three towns.

They say residents in Lawrence and Andover have received calls from individuals falsely claiming they're collecting donations on behalf of a local firefighter's association for the disaster.

Baker declared a state of emergency Friday and said New England-based Eversource would replace Columbia Gas as the lead utility in the recovery efforts.

"We're very interested to understand the operations of Columbia Gas", he said.

In the next phase, authorities will examine the damage to the gas system, and after that, they will inspect "every piece of equipment from the meter, where gas enters a building, to the equipment throughout a building that distributes gas to all the appliances", Baker said on Twitter.

Joe Hamrock, the CEO of NiSource, said "it's heartbreaking to see this devastation and this tragedy".

Bryant expressed his condolences to the victim's family, apologized for the inconvenience to customers and said the company was providing "all the resources that we possibly can to be able to correct the damage".

Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield likened the scene to "Armageddon".

One house in Lawrence exploded, sending the chimney flying. Leonel Rondon, 18, died after a chimney fell on his vehicle in Lawrence. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of MA called for a congressional hearings on the explosions and fires.

Gas service is not being restored at this time.

Columbia Gas, owned by NiSource Inc., has been linked to previous accidents in other states, The Boston Globe reported Friday. Later, that company became part of TransCanada. The company a subsidiary of NiSource, a utility company that serves more than three million customers in seven states. The company also provides electric distribution, generation and transmission services to nearly 500,000 customers in northern in as well.

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