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Gas explosion evacuees given “no clear timeline” for the return of the house: officials

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Suspected gas explosions hit communities in Massachusetts

Local police chief says 20 to 25 houses on fire in the community near Boston.

Thousands of Boston-area residents forced to evacuate in their neighborhood after Thursday’s gas explosions and fires had “no clear timeline” on when they can return, officials said.

The explosions, which killed at least one person and wounded 13, level, a number of dwellings and as many as 70 fires, affected residents of Lawrence, North andover and andover, communities in the Merrimack Valley north of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, according to Police.

Andover resident Don Bradley told Boston’s WBZ-TV that on hearing the news of gas explosions, he immediately evacuated from his home, but had to convince his “millennial” son, who wanted to grab his iPad and Macbook, to leave the devices behind.

Crews work to knock down a fire in Lawrence, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

(Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via AP)

“It’s a gas explosion, we go,” Bradley said that he told his son. “We have to go. This is not negotiable.”

“It’s a gas explosion, we go. We have to go. This is not negotiable.”

– Don Bradley, a resident berkel-enschot, recalling a conversation with his son

Manuel Cabrera told the Boston Globe he was forced to take shelter at an elementary school with other residents.

“I probably would have found another place to wait, but they turn the power in the city,” he said. “Hopefully, we are all able to go home.”

People who cover their faces to protect themselves from the heavy smoke of a fire on Bowdoin Street in Lawrence, Mass.

(Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via AP)

The three affected communities, a total of more than 146,000 residents, approximately 26 miles north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.

Volunteer fire department and residents equipped with monkey wrenches were reportedly going from house to house, the shut down of gas lines in order to prevent more explosions and fires.

As the fire raged, some neighborhoods were filled with heavy smoke and fleeing residents.

Residents seek shelter at a senior center after a series of fires and explosions in Andover, Mass., Sept. 13, 2018.

(Boston Globe via Associated Press)

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” andover fire chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. “There were waves of smoke from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the centre of Andover.”

Andrew Flanagan, centre manager of berkel-enschot, where the fire department responded to 35 fires total, told Springfield-based newspaper the Republican that “there is no clear timeline” on when evacuated residents return to their homes.

“We go through a process of using the tool to determine which areas of the city that are most affected to provide and accurate timeline of when people can return to their homes,” Flanagan told Boston’s WFXT-TV.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told the station that there is no expectation that people would be able to return to their homes Thursday.

Note: This off-duty Lawrence firefighter goes from house to house, the exit of gas as residents evacuate! https://t.co/IN2aC4RznU pic.twitter.com/igiK6ghOgW

— Boston 25 News (@boston25) September 13, 2018

“Some explosion took place about two blocks away from where I live, so this affects me personally because my whole neighborhood now has been evacuated,” Lawrence City Councilor Marc LaPlante told the station.

Columbia Gas, the utility that serves the communities, said earlier in the day that it would be “the improving of natural gas service” in the area, but is unclear on when and where the work would begin, MassLive reported.

After the explosions took place, the utility issued the following statement:

“Columbia Gas crews are currently responding to reports of multiple fires in Lawrence. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the current incident.

“The first priority for our crews at the scene to ensure the safety of our customers and the society through the support of professionals and the completion of safety checks on our system and in the environment.

“We appreciate the response of local emergency responders and their coordination with our teams.

The company told customers that if they smell natural gas, immediately leave the area and call 911 and their emergency phone: 1-800-525-8222.

Also, the mentioned measures customers should take if they smell natural gas.

“Don’ t turn off gas to your home or to any equipment,” the statement said. “Don’t try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves; don’t light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including the home phones or mobile phones, lighting, household appliances, flashlights, power tools, etc.; and do not open the windows and doors in an attempt to ventilate.”

Gas service was shut down by the company to approximately 8,000 customers.

Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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