The town of 35,000 residents is about 40 kilometres north of Boston near the New Hampshire border. We are saddened to learn of the death of a young man as a result of these events.
Customers with Columbia Gas have been primarily affected.
Early in the evening, Columbia Gas customers were urged to turn off the gas service to their homes. City Councilor Marc Laplante said authorities were shutting off electric power and urging residents in the Colonial Heights neighborhood to head to Parthum elementary and middle schools.
At least 70 buildings north of Boston, Massachusetts have been set ablaze by what appears to be a ruptured gas line.
"Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities", the statement said.
"There could still be a gas leak in your home", he said.
Fire investigators suspect "over-pressurization of a gas main" led to the series of blasts and fires, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said at a news conference.
At least three people, including one firefighter, were hurt in Andover, the town said in a statement. Joseph Solomon, a police chief in the town of Lawrence, said there were 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.
The Eagle-Tribune newspaper in North Andover reports at least one home has been destroyed and several others have caught fire amid a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence. The integrity management system of the pipeline operator Columbia Gas.
State police put the tally of fires and explosions at 39 and said the number was expected to grow.
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The Columbia Gas company, a unit of NiSource Inc, had said earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods 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.
The incident is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Fire Marshal's Office and the National Transportation Safety Board, local media report.
Trooper Eric Fairchild, who is the mission's tactical flight officer, was using the helicopter's Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera when he noticed something under the pavement at the intersection of Broadway and Andover Street.
In North Andover fire damaged a house on Waverly Road.
The incident forced National Grid to cut power to all three communities, leaving an estimated 18,000 people in the dark. "Safety is our top priority", it said.
Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority buses were commissioned to function as evacuation vehicles.
John Fluegge said he came home Thursday to find a note on the door of his apartment building saying everyone had to leave. "We know that all those fires at this point are out". "It's bad for the people affected, but a pretty small impact in terms of the gas market". Recent deliveries to the local distribution company from Tennessee Gas Pipeline "have been around 10,000 MMBtu, or 0.01 Bcf/d. We need to evacuate". NPU said its assistance was to last through the weekend. Some 400 people spent the night in shelters, and school was canceled Friday as families waited to return to their homes.
The AP additionally noted that State Police officers are now trying to secure areas where "multiple suspected gas explosions" took place.
"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said. Columbia Gas had the two most costly incidents - one in Springfield in 2012 and Canton in 2015.
Columbia Gas had announced earlier in the day it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across MA, including the area where the explosions happened.