Deadly US gas blast like 'Armageddon'

Nearly 40 fires and explosions erupt in Massachusetts

At least one person died and 12 were injured after dozens of fires and suspected gas explosions erupted leading to mass evacuations from USA towns north of Boston, police said.

Authorities named the dead teenager as Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, died after a chimney toppled by an exploding house crashed into his vehicle.

Columbia Gas, which has 313,000 customers across the state, says an investigation is underway as the utility works to cut gas supply.

Before the explosions, Columbia Gas had said it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the affected suburbs.

More than three dozen homes went up in flames Monday when fires and explosions erupted in northern MA in what were believed to be gas-related incidents, authorities said.

"Cases range from smoke inhalation to traumatic blast injuries", the hospital said, adding that one patient had been taken to another hospital.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has blamed the blasts on over-pressurised gas lines.

At least one person has died and 12 people have been injured in the explosions.

Some local officials described scenes of panic as residents rushed to evacuate, many wondering if their homes would be next to erupt in flames. The fires were reported across a "wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", the state police said. City Councillor Marc Laplante said authorities were shutting off electric power and urging residents in the Colonial Heights neighbourhood to head to Parthum elementary and middle schools.

A statement released Friday morning by the Columbia natural gas company, which serves the neighborhoods involved, said an "extensive restoration effort" will be required before the neighborhoods can return to normal.

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Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky", while Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque said he's "never seen anything like this".

"Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today", said Ken Stammen, a spokesman for NiSource.

Andover Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan, Police Chief Patrick E. Keefe and Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said Andover fire responders had put out a total of 35 fires. Just a few streets down, he said, homes were burning.

"It was very scary", she said.

"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said.

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.

"I have been in the fire service for nearly 39 years and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career", Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield said.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera estimated there are between 20 and 25 fires across the city, according to WCVB.

Residents of all three towns who use Columbia Gas were told to leave their houses immediately as was anyone else who smelt gas.

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