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Updated Friday at 9:42 am ET
Federal authorities opened an investigation into a series of explosions that caused fires in several small towns in Massachusetts on Thursday evening, killing one person and injuring several others.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced on Friday that it is sending a team to investigate "what seems to be more explosions involving a natural gas pipeline".
It is estimated that 8,000 people have been displaced, according to local officials. Fred Thys from the WBUR member station reports that residents may not be able to return home until Saturday.
Mary Schwalm / AP
Massachusetts State Police confirmed officials responded to 70 household fires, explosions or reports of gas smells – probably caused by gas leaks – around the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover Thursday night.
Officials have urged all residents in the area to evacuate Columbia Gas customers, "like anyone else who smells gas."
MSP Fusion Center updated the fire / explosions / gas smear survey count at 70. Spread over a large southern area #Lawrence and northern part of #NorthAndover with many others on Merrimack River north of Lawrence. pic.twitter.com/a7kBYaWFrJ
– Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 13, 2018
"Columbia Gas did not say what went wrong," Thys reported Friday. "State emergency management officials say that" the possible overpressurization of the gas line "could be the cause of the [the] explosions".
An 18-year-old man died when an overturned chimney fell on his car in the town of Lawrence, according to the North Andover newspaper, The Eagle-Tribune. The newspaper said 10 people were injured in gas explosions; however, Lawrence General Hospital previously reported that 13 people were receiving treatment there.
At least three people were injured in Andover, including a firefighter and two civilians, city officials said in a statement. It is unclear whether the injured people in Andover are part of the group that receives assistance from the Lawrence General Hospital.
At this time, Lawrence General received 13 patients due to gas fires. A critical patient was transported to a Boston trauma center, the rest being treated at Lawrence General. Accidents range from mild to smoke inhalation and explosion trauma.
– Lawrence General (@LawrenceGenHosp) September 14, 2018
Thursday evening, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told residents that they would not be able to return home that evening; the state police said that the gas lines were being depressurized by the company but warned that the process could take some time.
Gov. Charlie Baker said: "The depressurization of the lines in the closure was designed to ensure that there would be no more fires this evening," although he added that firefighters would continue to put out fires overnight.
Public schools in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover will be closed on Friday due to the fires.
Mary Schwalm / AP
Andover city manager Andrew P. Flanagan, police chief Patrick E. Keefe and fire chief Michael Mansfield said that Andover rescuers issued a total of 35 fires. "At the peak, 18 fires burn at the same time," they said, adding that all the fires were extinguished and that the firefighters will remain in town throughout the evening.
The Associated Press reported:
"The company Columbia Gas had previously announced that it would improve gas lines in neighborhoods throughout the state, including the area where the explosions took place. , and a spokesperson did not immediately comment. "
Before evacuating from North Andover, Jeremy Melvin described a chaotic scene near the plumbing shop where he works.
"We have people running towards their cars, more fires, there is smoke on the other side of my vision," Melvin told Lynn Jolicoeur of WBUR.
State police officers and local police helped evacuate residents. The access ramps to the cities were closed while the access ramps remained open to allow residents to leave the affected areas.
At one point, the Methuen police chief, Joseph Solomon, told USA Today that there were so many fires, "you can not even see the sky".
Reuters spoke to a displaced person named Guilia Holland:
"Holland, a 35-year-old mechanic in a wheelchair, said he had just come down from a bus to go home when he saw a big flash of light at the house where he had rented a room for a month.
"" Good thing I was not home or I would not have talked about it, & # 39; he said outside of a lawrence elementary school that the Red Cross had converted into a shelter for about 170 people. "
NR Tovia Smith spoke with resident Elaine Almquist, who said she felt powerless
" I could see smoke, helicopters, fire trucks, police cars, only constant sirens – my city "Almquist told Smith.
"[Almquist] was able to get into his house and grab his cat before fleeing from his seat, but with so many people evacuating the minute of travel immediately it took her two hours" , reports Smith. " And now he's getting ready for what may be days before he can get home. "
Teams – each with a police officer, a fireman and a gas technician – are going door to door in the affected area, Smith says, controlling thousands of homes.