ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS - Officials in Massachusetts say some 8,000 people have evacuated their homes after a series of gas explosions killed a teenager and ignited fires in 60 to 80 homes.
The towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover were set on edge late Thursday as the rapid-fire explosions took place.
Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon was killed after a chimney from an exploding house fell on his car. Some 25 other people were injured in the chaos after the blasts.
Some 400 people spent the night in shelters after Massachusetts State Police urged them to evacuate their homes. Governor Charlie Baker has said it may be days or weeks before those displaced could return to their homes.
He said state and local authorities are investigating the causes of the explosions and checking each house serviced by Columbia Gas company — 8,600 in all — to shut off the gas line and make sure the home is safe.
Columbia Gas released a statement calling Thursday's events "a tragic accident." It said it is grateful for the community's patience.
Some 18,000 customers of National Grid electric company are also without power, after the lines were shut off to prevent any sparks that could ignite stray gas.
By midday Friday, authorities said all fires had been extinguished.
"It looked like Armageddon," said Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfeld."There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me.I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover."
Emergency officials said they suspect the cause of the accident was overpressurized gas lines. The local gas company said it is decreasing the pressure in the lines.