LAWRENCE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Described as a war scene in northeast Massachusetts, a series of gas sparked explosions that killed a teenager, left several others injured, and forced a mass evacuation.

On Friday in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, crews are working to secure the area and find the root cause.

Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency.

Western Mass News visited one of the shelters where residents are seeking safety.

The people we spoke with said they have more questions than answers, and are simply ready to go home.

"The past 24 hours have been chaotic at best," said Lawrence resident Mark Powell.

A series of explosions from a gas pipeline started fires in 60 to 80 homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover on Thursday.

"We saw the smoke from one of the fires. People were worried, they had us get out of the building. Some people stayed which they weren't supposed to. We left, we got on a bus, and came here," said Powell.

Like many other residents throghout the Merrimack Valley, Powell is waiting to get the green light to go home, but it's unclear when that time will come.

In the meantime, the Red Cross is keeping people safe, children occupied and well fed.

"Lawrence deserves a specific tactic and that's what we're doing to reach the most needy in our community in a way that's thoughtful and thorough," said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

Amid the chaos, a life was claimed as the fires consumed the dozens of homes.

18-year-old Leonel Rondon of Lawrence was killed after a chimney fell on top of a car. Sadly, he had just gotten his driver's license .

On Friday, emergency officials are just beginning to survey the damage.

Massachusetts Emergency Management said an over-pressurized pipeline is to blame, however, the official cause is under investigation.

"From a public safety perspective, this incident is stabilizing at this point. All fires from yesterday afternoon and last night has been extinguished and are out and there have been no new gas-related fires since yesterday evening," said Kurt Schwarts, Management Agency Director for MEMA.

The National Transportation Safety board arrived in Massachusetts to begin a full-scale investigation.

Residents are warned to listen to officials, and heed caution.

"It's very important that people do not try to turn on their own gas please wait for the utilities," said Governor Baker.

Meanwhile at one of the shelters, Western Mass News found those displaced are still remembering to count their blessings.

"All the volunteers have been super. They have taken care of us really well," said Powell.

There is not a clear timeline for when the evacuation order will be lifted.

Residents are being transported to places where they can get a shower.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.