20 to 25 homes catch fire in Mass. after suspected gas explosions

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Andover, North Andover and Lawrence projects were included.

The town of 35,000 residents is about 26 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire border.

The officials said that they are investigating and ease out the pressure on the gas pipes. We are saddened to learn of the death of a young man as a result of these events. We are focused on providing as much support as possible to our customers, residents and communities. Gas service was shut down by the company to roughly 8,000 customers.

Its parent company said Columbia Gas crews were performing safety checks, but did not explain what went wrong. City Councillor Marc Laplante said authorities were shutting off electric power and urging residents in the Colonial Heights neighbourhood to head to Parthum elementary and middle schools. The state police said some neighborhoods were evacuated because of gas odors.

Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said, "How long is it going to take?"

Authorities said Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, died Thursday after a chimney toppled by an exploding house crashed into his vehicle. Ten people were confirmed injured.

"There could still be a gas leak in your home", he said.

Fire investigators suspected "over-pressurization of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas of MA led to the series of explosions and fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said at a news conference.

At least three people have been injured in Andover, including one firefighter and two civilians, town officials said in a statement.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon told USA Today there are so many fires, "you can't even see the sky".

Emergency response workers from surrounding communities worked through the night to help extinguish fires and care for the injured.

A fire engine is seen near a building emitting smoke after explosions in Lawrence, Massachusetts, US, September 13, 2018.

Andover Fire-Rescue sent a 10-alarm response, the highest level.

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Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were included Thursday morning in an alert from Columbia Gas of MA telling customers on its website that it was "upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods" across the state.

What caused the gas explosions remains unclear, authorities said.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he is in contact with first responders and is actively monitoring the situation.

State and local officials said at a news conference minutes earlier that they had still not heard from Columbia Gas following the fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Firefighters battle a house fire in North Andover, Massachusetts.

The helicopter crew "likely prevented another catastrophic event", State Police said. "Safety is our top priority", it said.

"Our thoughts are with the community and everyone impacted by yesterday's tragic incident". He said residents detecting odd odours should leave their homes. "It was scary. We didn't know anything". "It's terrible for the people affected, but a pretty small impact in terms of the gas market".

The National Transportation Safety Board have a team of investigators headed to the area, officials said. He expects regulators eventually will approve rates to cover more infrastructure spending at what is a minor piece of the sprawling Indiana-based utility holding company.

The governor said he urged Columbia Gas to develop a "comprehensive safety inspection plan".

The North Andover Police Department advised residents with gas service in their homes or businesses to "please exit the building until further notice". NPU said its assistance was to last through the weekend.

Schools were to be closed Friday in Lawrence and Andover.

"People need to get out of this area safely", he said at the time. Columbia Gas had the two most costly incidents - one in Springfield in 2012 and Canton in 2015.

Columbia had announced earlier on Thursday (Friday NZT) that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened.