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Lawrence area residents get the all-clear to go home

16 September 2018

Debris was strewn over cars and driveways and homes were left in pieces after a series of gas explosions and fires erupted in three MA communities on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for the area and put Eversource Energy, another utility, in charge of recovery efforts after state and local officials said they were unsatisfied with Columbia Gas' response.

A technician who punctured a gas line was to blame for this 2012 blast in Springfield that destroyed a nightclub and damaged almost a dozen other buildings and injured 17 people.

The blasts killed at least one person, injured at least 10 more and started 70 fires in three different communities.

Officials said it appeared Columbia Gas' pipeline control center in Columbus, Ohio, registered a pressure increase in the Lawrence area before the explosions.

In a statement Friday, Columbia Gas said crew members are working to restore power with the help of other utility companies.

Michael Mansfield, the Andover fire chief, said: "I have never seen anything like this".

The NTSB would not say how Columbia Gas' accident history compares to other natural gas suppliers. Leonel Rondon, 18, died after a chimney fell on his auto in Lawrence.

"It's going to be a complicated process to get you back to normalcy", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said. He later died at the hospital, authorities said.

CreditSights Inc. analysts said Friday in a note that the MA incident "appears to have been caused by the utility working on the gas lines immediately before the explosions occurred". It makes them feel special that people out there care about us - that the Red Sox were taking cash donations at the games, that stuff is really great.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters in Washington the agency sent a "go-team" of investigators to the area.

Utility President Steve Bryant later defended the company's performance, saying the company had remained in constant touch with state and federal officials.

Lawrence area residents get the all-clear to go home