Red Cross helping at least 800 Merrimack Valley residents after gas explosions


More than 8,000 people were displaced Thursday night following gas explosions and house fires across three towns north of Boston, including the town of Andover.  

Governor Charlie Baker has declared a State of Emergency following the series of gas explosions in that killed at least one person and injured many others.

Police said residents will not be able to return to their homes until all of the homes’ gas levels are stable.

“I got stopped by four, five or six pedestrians about asking what I knew and I asked what they knew,” Peter Beatty of Andover told 22News. “There’s a common frustration about what’s happening, what’s the process and when are we going to be allowed back into our homes.”

It all started just after 4 p.m. Thursday when local and State police received numerous reports of house fires and gas explosions in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence.

An 18-year-old Lawrence resident was killed after an explosion sent a chimney crashing onto a car he was in.

It’s still unclear what caused the gas explosions and fires but the State Fire Marshal believes a Columbia Gas main may have become over-pressured and triggered gas leaks in the three Boston suburbs.

“It’s kinda like a ghost town,” said Julio Carrion of Lawrence. “It’s different, I mean it’s never happened before. It’s kind of crazy.”

Columbia Gas workers were shutting off the gas and conducting safety inspections at all the homes that were affected. On Friday afternoon, Gov. Baker announced that Eversource would be taking over the recovery efforts.

The American Red Cross is assisting displaced families at four different evacuation shelters.

“I know a lot of people don’t have work today, they are out of their homes  and don’t’ know where to go, they can always go to a Red Cross shelter any of the shelters and they can come in, hang out have a snack, and if they need a place to stay tonight we have the beds to do that,” said Michael Onofrio, a Red Cross volunteer.

Nearly 75 American Red Cross workers from as far away as western Massachusetts and Rhode Island were deployed to help the families affected.

There are two shelters in Lawrence for people who need a place to stay. One is Arlington School, and the other is Parthum School.

The Red Cross is expecting as many as 800 residents to stay overnight at the evacuation shelters.

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